Tamir Rice shooting probe: 1 officer fired, 1 suspended

Courtesy of CBS News

CLEVELAND — Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, was fired Tuesday — not for the shooting, but because investigators found he wasn’t truthful about his employment history when he applied for the job, officials said.

The officer who was with Loehmann, Frank Garmback, will be suspended for 10 days because he violated tactical rules relating to how he drove to the scene that day, the city’s public safety director and the police chief said.

An Ohio grand jury declined to criminally charge the officers in 2015.

None of the rule violations announced by Public Safety Director Michael McGrath and Chief Calvin Williams directly related to Loehmann shooting Rice outside a recreation center as the boy held a toy gun on November 22, 2014.

“After over two years of investigation by our agency, the county prosecutor’s office (and) the sheriff’s department, I think we’ve come to what we consider a fair conclusion to this process,” Williams said.

Rice’s mother called the actions against Loehmann and Garmback “deeply disappointing.”

“I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place — but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application,” a statement from Samaria Rice read.

“And Garmback should be fired, too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir,” Samaria Rice said. “As we continue to grieve for Tamir, I hope this is a call for all of us to build stronger communities together.”

Police union files action

Grievances were filed on behalf of Loehmann and Garmback, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Stephen Loomis told reporters.

Loomis said they had been prepared in anticipation of disciplinary action against the two officers.

“This is a politically motivated witch hunt,” Loomis said. He added that he thinks there is no proof that Loehmann lied on his application, and even if he did, he shouldn’t have been fired.

“We had him prepared,” Loomis said. “There is no question in my mind that we’re going to get Tim Loehmann’s job back.”

The death of Rice, who was African-American, came to exemplify the kind of complaints about excessive use of police force that have defined the Black Lives Matter movement.

The city settled a wrongful-death lawsuit last year with the Rice family for $6 million.

Loehmann’s 2013 job application

Loehmann’s firing took effect Tuesday morning, and Garmback’s suspension begins Wednesday. The punishment stems from an internal investigation that resumed in earnest in January 2016 after the grand jury declined to charge the officers.

Loehmann applied to join Cleveland’s police force in 2013 after resigning from the police department in the suburb of Independence, and after failing a written exam while applying for a job with police in Maple Heights.

But the internal review panel investigating the Rice shooting found he lied or omitted crucial information in his application’s personal history statement, city officials said.

The review found, according to a letter from McGrath to Loehmann:

• Loehmann failed to say that Independence police would have fired him had he not resigned. Loehmann was accused in Independence of, among other things, failing to secure his firearm and being insubordinate and untruthful to a superior officer. He also was sent home for a day when he had an emotional breakdown during a state qualification course.

• Loehmann indicated that his reason for leaving Independence police was that he resigned for personal reasons.

• He answered “no” when asked whether he received any disciplinary actions.

• He answered falsely when asked whether any other department disqualified him for employment, the review found.

• The report also says: “In addition, the Independence Police Department concluded that you were ’emotional (sic) immature’ and possessed an ‘inability to emotionally function.’ ”

Garmback faulted for driving up to Rice

In a disciplinary letter, McGrath told Garmback that he should not have driven his patrol car onto the grass at the park where Rice was sitting at a picnic table.

“You did not employ proper tactics when you failed to stop your zone car immediately upon entering Cudell Park,” he wrote. McGrath also admonished Garmback for not waiting for another car, as is standard practice on a gun call.

This was in light of the fact that it was not an active-shooter call and when Garmback drove up on the scene, Rice was at the table and did not present an immediate threat.

The shooting

Loehmann shot Rice, who was holding a toy replica pistol, after a witness called 911 to report that someone was brandishing a gun in a park. The caller noted that the person was “probably a juvenile” and that the gun was “probably fake,” records show.

But a dispatcher did not share the qualifiers with the responding officers, Loehmann and Garmback.

Video of the incident shows Loehmann, then a trainee, arriving in a squad car driven by Garmback. The car moves close to Rice, and less than two seconds after the vehicle arrives, Loehmann shoots the boy. Loehmann and Garmback both said in written statements dated November 2015 they thought Rice was pulling out a real gun from his waistband.

Two months ago, the dispatcher who relayed the report to officers, Constance Hollinger, was suspended for eight days without pay for failing to mention those details.