MANHATTAN (CN) — In an inversion of Tamir Rice's fatal shooting in Cleveland, a New York teen holding a toy gun survived police fire — and a federal judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit filed by the boy's mother against those officers can go to trial.
Almost a year before Rice's death, Dierdre Daniel's son — then 15 years old and identified as K.C. in court papers — had been carrying a toy gun that did not have the bright orange tip required by New York law.
The New York City Police Department claims the boy had been running away near a public housing building in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville when Officer Jonathan Rivera shot him three times on Dec. 19, 2013.
In her 13-page lawsuit, Daniel says her son sustained multiple gunshot wounds that lacerated his liver and required his gall bladder to be surgically removed at Kings County Hospital, where he left with a 12-inch open wound and a bout of pneumonia.
The most recent version of Daniel's complaint seeks $5 million in punitive damages.
As Daniel's case proceeded with little media attention, police in Cleveland, Ohio, shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing alone with a pellet gun on Nov. 22, 2014.
Though a grand jury refused to indict the officers involved in that shooting, Rice's family sued the Cleveland Police Department and ultimately settled for $6 million. Their late son soon became a national symbol of the then-burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice.
Meanwhile, Daniel's son remained unidentified, and her case quietly moved to discovery in Manhattan Federal Court.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel gave the cases against NYPD Officer Rivera and his partner Kevin Franco the green light to proceed.
Daniel accuses Franco of failing to intervene on her son's behalf.
"After reviewing the evidence, the Court concludes there are genuine issues of material fact in dispute as to the reasonableness of Officer Rivera's use of force," Castrel wrote in his 8-page opinion. "Critical to Officer Rivera's motion are the video recordings of the foot pursuit, which he contends unequivocally show that immediately before each time he discharged his weapon, K.C. 'bladed' his body, which made it appear as if K.C. was about to fire his imitation handgun. ... While the video shows K.C. turned his head to look back at the officers in pursuit on several occasions, the extent to which K.C. 'bladed' his body towards Officer Rivera, if at all, is a matter open to reasonable interpretation."
"A reasonable jury could conclude that K.C.'s motions did not pose an immediate risk of harm to Officer Rivera or others," he added.
Castrel admits to being unsure what the word "bladed," used by Officer Rivera in his testimony, means.
The New York City Law Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the NYPD declined to comment.
An attorney for the Daniel family did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment by press time.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.