Family and friends of Tamir Rice will gather at 5 p.m. today at Cudell Rec Center for a vigil and rally on behalf of the 12-year-old boy. 48 hours after a Cleveland police officer shot Tamir
, those close to him are expected to make their first public statements to the anticipated crowd.
But an account written by Case grad student and Cleveland City Council intern Shelly Gracon has been circulating over the past 24 hours or so. Here, she describes speaking with two girls who knew Tamir. One witnessed the shooting.
i want to do honor to 12 year old tamir rice (and write this out while it is fresh), so i am going to share with you what i just experienced. i was able to speak with two young girls. one witnessed the shooting, the other was out of town (she told me she felt bad cause he had asked her to go to the rec center with him earlier that day). both knew him very well and had only good things to say - well, i guess he could be a pain sometimes, i was told - we laughed. he was a gifted artist. he was very sensitive and creative. he had the BB gun because often times he was made fun of and bullied because he had learning disabilities. he never had it out. he never was a threat. his friend did say that BB guns look too real, and she thinks no one should have guns.
he and his friends went over to the RTA station across the street and a white man who was there called the police cause he must have seen the gun. they came running back to cudell rec. and were just sitting together when the police arrived. the police pulled their guns on the boy, his friends backed away, and he said it was just a BB gun w/ no bullets and went to lift his shirt to show it to them and they shot him twice in the stomach. in front of not only his friends, but also other children, and i believe his sister as well. his sister was screaming and the police slammed her down on the ground - they actually hurt her they were so aggressive. his brother also came onto the scene and was upset and the police slammed him on the ground as well.
meanwhile, this child is shot. his mother finds out and is heard screaming through the neighborhood. all this is happening in the middle of the day. yesterday. at a rec center. he was very involved there, and knew everyone. he was described as shy and very talented at art. his friend told me about a drawing he made for her. she said she told him that god is always in his heart, and that he is special. these two girls really were such beautiful souls.
he told his friend that was there when he was shot earlier in the week that he thought something bad was going to happen to him. this boy was a gifted empath. he was NOT A THREAT TO ANYONE.
so, take that to the news.
"It's gone viral now, which I wasn't really prepared for," Shelly tells Scene
. "Because I truly believe what I heard from them, I want to get the truth out — which is what people are relating to and sharing — but in the same regard, they're still children.
"I'm trying really hard to protect them," she says, "because they're so young." She spoke with the girls at Cudell Rec Center yesterday, teddy bear and candle in hand, amid an impromptu vigil.
In talking with the girls — "very very close if not best friends with this boy," Shelly says — she began to gather an impression of Tamir that hasn't surfaced widely in local media reports.
"I more so want people to understand who this boy was as a person," Shelly says. "He wasn't a thug. He wasn't what people are making him out to be at all. He was someone who had a lot of friends who hung out at that rec center all the time.
"He was bullied at school, body-slammed a lot at school — really, really picked on," Shelly adds. The girls told her that he had the airsoft gun to make himself feel safer. They relayed to her that he "never had any intent to harm anyone with it."
Video of the shooting is not yet being released publicly. The family has not viewed the video, though their representatives have seen it. It's expected that the footage might clear up mixed messages over Tamir's final moments
and what sort of interaction was taking place between him and the officer.
The shooting came just 11 days after a public safety forum at the recreation center. Members of the Edgewater and Baltic neighborhoods gathered Nov. 11 to discuss safety issues in the community and how residents could better engage the neighborhood. Shelly helped organize the forum in her role as a city intern with Ward 15.
"There's another side to this story that is not being heard," she says. "I feel like this community is not being heard."
Hence the viral post, and hence her ongoing work in the ward. "I want out of this to come conversation within the community — about what happened and how we can move forward and heal and stop this from happening again." She cited counseling for the children who were at the playground Nov. 22 as one specific and much-needed route forward.