The city of Cleveland has apologized to the family of Tamir Rice after sending the 12-year-old boy’s estate a $500 claim for “emergency medical services rendered as the decedent’s last dying expense.”
The $500 for Rice’s ambulance bill, which has since been withdrawn, included $450 for life support he received and $50 for mileage for the five-mile trip from the park where he was shot to the hospital where he died.
The bill came up after Douglas Winston, the executor for Rice’s estate, contacted the city regarding any outstanding debts. Medicaid initially covered an estimated $179.90 of the bill, and the city absorbed the remaining balance. When the executor made the inquiry, it reopened the claim.
Richard Horvath, chief corporate council for the city of Cleveland, explained in a press conference, “Medicaid, under federal law, is a payer of last resort. If we become aware that there is a potential other source of insurance or an estate that could pay all or any of the charges, then the city is obligated to reimburse Medicaid and seek payment from that source.”
After the city learned that there was an estate for Rice, “the routine process for the city would be to submit those charges to the probate court and reimburse Medicaid for any payments that it had made,” Hovarth said.
Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said that while the incident was “a mistake in terms of us not flagging it,” the city “followed the legal process.”
“The only reason we sent the bill to the estate is because they asked for it,” he said. “If they had not asked for it, then we would not be having this conversation.”
But Rice’s family and their attorneys are not impressed with the apology especially given that Rice’s high-profile case is far from “routine,” according to Rice family attorney Earl Ward.
“This is the biggest case in the city of Cleveland. You know, it’s not often that a 12-year-old boy ends up getting shot by police, and for them to say this was just part and parcel of, you know, what they typically do, I just don’t buy it. This is not a routine case, and to say it was handled in a routine way just to me doesn’t cut it.”
Another family attorney, Subodh Chandra, said in a statement that the city’s actions “added insult to homicide.”
“The Rice family is disturbed by the city’s behavior,” he said. “The callousness, insensitivity, and poor judgment required for the city to send a bill its own police officers having slain 12-year-old Tamir is breathtaking.”
Samaria Rice, Rice’s mother, felt that receiving the bill was harassment, Chandra said.
Steve Loomis, president of the police union, weighed in to express disappointment as well: “Subodh Chandra and I have never agreed on anything until now. It is unconscionable that the city of Cleveland would send that bill to the Rice family. but not at all surprising.”
In November 2014, Rice was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann after a 911 caller reported Rice waving a gun, which was a pellet gun, at a rec center. Loehmann shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene, and neither Loehmann nor his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, attempted to give Rice any medical assistance for four minutes following the shooting. Rice succumbed to his injuries the following day.
In January, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced that a grand jury would not indict Loehmann or Garmback in relation to Rice’s death.
Jackson apologized to Rice’s family “if in fact this has added to any grief or pain that they may have” making this the second time the mayor has apologized to the Rice family regarding Rice’s death.
Last March, the city used in its defenses language implicating Rice in his own death, saying his death was caused “by the failure to exercise due care to avoid injury” and that the Rice family’s “injuries, losses and damages were directly and proximately caused by the acts of the Plaintiff’s decedent (Rice), not this Defendant.”
At the time, Jackson apologized and said the city “used words and phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive, very insensitive to the tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”
However, Rice and his family have faced harsh words from other members of the Cleveland community as well notably McGinty and Matthew Cicero, a Cleveland resource officer.
In November, McGinty accused Samaria Rice and the family of having “economic motives” in seeking justice for Rice.
“They waited until they didn’t like the reports they received,” McGinty said in reference to expert reports that found Rice’s shooting justified. “They’re very interesting people let me just leave it at that and they have their own economic motives.”
The following month, Cicero humiliated Samaria Rice on social media, posting sentiments similar to those of McGinty on his Facebook page and seemingly implicating Samaria Rice in her son’s death.
“Tamir rices momma just want money. Lets make the proper changes.raise your kids not to play with fake guns stupid b**ch. All this media bc the (sic) are notngetting (sic) what they want. Againpleeeeze anyone who does not like what I post.unfriendly (sic) me or block me your not worth my time,” the post read.