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Cleveland Police Officer Who Shot Tamir Rice Is Fired

The Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 as he held a pellet gun, setting off national protests, was fired Tuesday, officials said.

At a news conference, officials said that the officer, Timothy Loehmann, would be terminated immediately and that Frank Garmback, an officer who was driving the patrol car, would be suspended for 10 days beginning Wednesday. They also said Officer Garmback would be required to take an additional tactical training course.

The decision came after what Mayor Frank Jackson of Cleveland called an “exhaustive process” of investigation.

“This has been tough on our entire community, and definitely on the Rice family,” said Calvin Williams, the police chief. “When this happened in 2014, I made the comment that this is, of course, a tragedy, but it’s even more tragic that it happened at the hands of a Cleveland police officer.”

While Officer Garmback was suspended for violations related to the shooting, like failing to report his arrival to a radio dispatcher, the administrative charges leveled against Officer Loehmann did not even mention the 2014 episode.

Officer Loehmann was instead fired for lying on his employment application in 2013, a violation that came to light only after officials began investigating the officers after Tamir’s death. Still, the police chief noted that since the shooting, changes had been made in the way officers are trained.

Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said her family was relieved to hear of the firing but still considered it too little, too late. “Shame on the city of Cleveland for taking so long to render a decision like this,” she said in a phone interview. “Timothy Loehmann should have never been a police officer in the first place.”

She added that Officer Garmback should have been fired rather than suspended, “for pulling up so close to my son to create the danger” at the time of the shooting.

On Nov. 22, 2014, the officers were dispatched after Tamir was reported for playing with a pellet gun near a recreation center. Though the caller specified that the gun was “probably fake,” that information was not communicated to the responding officers. Video released after the episode showed that Officer Loehmann shot Tamir within two seconds of the patrol car pulling up beside the boy.

In 2015, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against any of the officers involved in the shooting, which inflamed national outrage over this and other prominent killings of young African-Americans by police officers.

In January, it was announced that the two officers along with a third officer, William Cunningham, would face administrative charges from the department. Those charges were brought after a special committee was created by the department to investigate Tamir’s shooting. In March, an emergency dispatcher was suspended from work for eight days for violating protocol in her handling of the call.

Officer Cunningham, who was off duty, was at the scene because he was working a second job as security for the recreation center. In March, he received a two-day suspension because he had not been authorized to take on a second job.

Before joining the Cleveland police force, Officer Loehmann worked for a smaller police department, in Independence, Ohio, where supervisors recommended his termination, citing instances of insubordination, lying and an “inability to emotionally function.”

But Officer Loehmann was allowed to resign instead, and he did not mention this in a personal history statement when he applied to join the Cleveland force in 2013. He had not yet completed his six-month probationary period when he shot Tamir in 2014.

“There’s no accounting to the public for who it is that failed to check Loehmann’s application, to check his background, to do proper due diligence before entrusting this man with a badge and a gun,” Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for the Rice family, said at a news conference after the announcement.

“And the result of those failures, which remain unaccounted for, is that a child is dead.”

The Cleveland police have “learned a lot from this incident,” Chief Williams said, adding that “our use of deadly force went dramatically down here in the city of Cleveland since 2014.” He said that all front-line officers are now equipped with body cameras and that officer training has begun placing more emphasis on de-escalation and first aid.

Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland police union, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision to fire Officer Loehmann and suspend Officer Garmback. “Evidence clearly shows that these gentlemen did not do anything illegal,” he said. “They did not do anything outside of our policy, outside of our training, and this is a politically motivated witch hunt.”

In recent years, police shootings resulting in the deaths of black men and boys, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., in 2016 — neither of which has resulted in criminal charges against the officers involved — have spurred protests across the country and increased public scrutiny of policing practices.

Source: nytimes

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