Timothy Loehmann, officer who killed Tamir Rice, hired by tiny Pennsylvania town of Tioga

The former Cleveland officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 was hired as the lone police officer in a small Pennsylvania town this week, nearly eight years after the boy’s killing helped spur nationwide protests over law enforcement’s use of deadly force against Black people.

Timothy Loehmann was sworn in on Tuesday in Tioga, Pa., Borough President Steve Hazlett wrote on social media. The vote by the borough’s council came after the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and local media were told the name of the officer. A photo and caption from Hazlett on Facebook clarified that the officer hired to represent the borough of about 700 people was Loehmann, who was fired from the Cleveland Police Department in 2017 for lying on his job application but faced no criminal charges connected to Rice’s death. Rice was carrying a pellet gun at a playground when he was shot and killed by Loehmann in November 2014.

“Timothy Loehmann is your new Tioga police officer,” Hazlett wrote.

The hiring has sparked protests and anger in recent days, including from Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, who told The Washington Post that the decision was “a big mistake.”

“He should not be a police officer anywhere in the United States,” she said, adding that she was enraged and concerned for the Tioga community. “I’m actually shocked that anybody would give him a job knowing what he has done to my family.”

Subodh Chandra, the attorney for Rice’s family and his estate, told The Post on Thursday that he was “shocked and yet not surprised.”

“Timothy Loehmann has shown a level of shameless determination to rub his conduct into the faces of the Tamir Rice family and the rest of the world,” Chandra said. “The level of bad judgment here by the Tioga Borough Council is really unfathomable, and I hope they will be held to account.”

Tioga Borough Mayor David Wilcox said he was not made aware of Loehmann’s background when members of the borough council found the officer and agreed to hire him. Wilcox told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was not given the chance to review Loehmann’s summary, and that the Rice case never came up at any point during the process. The details surrounding the review process for Loehmann remain unclear.

“I was under the impression that there was a thorough background check into him, that he did not have any issues,” Wilcox told the outlet. “I found it strange that someone would move here all the way from Cleveland, Ohio, for $ 18 an hour. But I heard that he wanted to get away from it all and come here to hunt and fish. ”

Wilcox posted a video to Facebook on Thursday of a recent borough council meeting that shows a member saying he was motioning “to hire a police officer by the name of Timothy – I still can’t pronounce that name.” He then spelled out “Lochmann,” saying the officer would be hired “under the condition that he passes all the physicals and everything accordingly,” according to video.

“Why were we NOT made aware of the last name change?” Wilcox wrote.

Neither Hazlett nor a representative with Tioga’s police department immediately responded to requests for comment early Thursday.

The news was first reported by Garrett Carr, a freelance journalist with the Sun-Gazette.

Loehmann’s hiring comes days after another fatal police shooting in Ohio has left the state reeling. Police in Akron released body-camera footage Sunday showing officers firing dozens of rounds at Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man who left his car while fleeing a traffic stop last week. Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said he did not know the exact number of rounds fired at Walker but said the medical examiner’s report indicates more than 60 wounds on Walker’s body. Eight officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of probes by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Akron Police Office of Professional Standards and Accountability.

Akron police release video of officers shooting Black man dozens of times

More than 1,040 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year, according to data tracked by The Post. Although half of those people were White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the US population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of Whites. Hispanics are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

Loehmann’s hiring in Tioga – more than 300 miles east of Cleveland and only a few miles from New York state – is the latest example of a police officer getting rehired after being fired elsewhere. A 2017 Post report found that although the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust during a period of more than a decade, departments were forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts.

On Nov. 22, 2014, two Cleveland police officers – Loehmann and Frank Garmback – came to a park in response to a 911 call about a man with a gun. Rice was playing with a pellet gun that officials have said was indistinguishable from a regular pistol. Although the caller told the dispatcher that this person was possibly a child playing with a toy, that was not relayed to the officers, who handled the call as an “active shooter” situation, authorities said.

Within seconds of police driving their patrol car onto the grass, Loehmann, a White rookie officer, shot Rice from the passenger seat of the vehicle. Loehmann later told authorities that the 12-year-old Black child appeared to be reaching for a weapon in his waistband.

After Ohio authorities investigated the case, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Loehmann in December 2015. Loehmann was ultimately fired from the department for not disclosing on his job application that he had left his previous position in Independence, Ohio, due to “ an inability to emotionally function ”as an officer. Garmback was suspended. The city of Cleveland agreed to pay Rice’s relatives $ 6 million as part of a civil settlement.

The Justice Department announced in late 2020 that it had formally closed its federal investigation into the police shooting of Rice. In announcing the decision to close the case, the Justice Department said that it had conducted an “extensive examination of the facts in this tragic event,” but that career prosecutors in the department concluded “the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Loehmann willfully violated Tamir Rice’s constitutional rights. ” The federal investigation also examined whether the officer and his partner had obstructed justice, and it concluded that there was nothing to pursue.

Justice Dept. closes investigation of Tamir Rice killing

Shortly after he was fired in Cleveland, Loehmann was hired as a part-time police officer in Bellaire, Ohio. Loehmann withdrew his application a few days later after officials faced backlash for hiring him.

Wilcox, the Tioga mayor, told WEWS in Cleveland that Loehmann was one of three candidates considered for the position.

“Everything came back clear that he did not have any bad remarks on his record at all,” he told the TV station. “That’s the way it was presented to the rest of the council and myself.”

But when the news got out that the officer who fatally shot Rice in 2014 was hired in Tioga, dozens of residents protested the decision on Wednesday. One demonstrator told the Sun-Gazette that the circumstances in which Loehmann was hired were “just wrong.”

“I think there was a lot of wrong information given and a lot of people did not know what they were going,” the man told the newspaper.

Wilcox has vowed not to schedule any hours for Loehmann until there is a resolution, according to WEWS. Chandra told The Post that while he’s grateful that residents and leaders are upset with the hiring, Loehmann resurfacing hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania has caused “great suffering to the Rice family all over again.”

“It’s difficult to imagine that the citizens of Tioga and surrounding communities will tolerate a law enforcement officer who represents such a grave risk to them,” Chandra said. “So my hope is that the officials will do what is right.”

Samaria Rice said she found out about Loehmann’s hiring days before she will unveil a memorial for her son on the spot where he was shot. The officer finding work in Pennsylvania, she said, was his way of “taunting me and disrespecting me blatantly to my face.”

“Timothy Loehmann is just disrespecting me all around,” she said, saying that the last few years have left her “tired.” “There is no reconciliation there. As human beings and a God-fearing woman, I probably have to forgive him, but I will never forgive what he’s done to my family. ”

She added, “Timothy Loehmann is connected to Tamir Rice, and that’ll never change.”

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

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