CLEVELAND: The police officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice was fired Tuesday for failing to disclose that he had been forced out of another department before Cleveland hired him, while his partner was suspended for driving too close to the 12-year-old seconds before the boy was killed.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams announced the discipline against officers Timothy Loehmann, who shot the boy, and Frank Garmback, who was driving the cruiser.
Tamir, who was black, was shot outside a recreation center in November 2014 as he held a pellet gun that the white officers mistook for a real firearm. The killing became part of a national outcry about police violence against black boys and men. The officers weren’t charged criminally, but Tamir’s mother settled a federal civil rights lawsuit with the city for $6 million.
Loehmann was fired because the department concluded he wasn’t truthful on his job application, failing to reveal that a suburban department had allowed him to resign instead of being fired at the end of a six-month probationary period. An evaluation in the suburban department’s file had said Loehmann had a “dismal” handgun performance, broke down in tears at the gun range and was emotionally immature.
Garmback was suspended for 10 days for violating a tactical rule for his driving that day, with a disciplinary letter saying he drove too close to Tamir. Video of the shooting shows the patrol car skidding to a stop just feet from the boy.
The officers’ union said it was challenging the discipline, while Tamir’s mother said both officers should have been fired.
The two officers had gone to the center after a man waiting for a bus called 911 to report a “guy” was pointing a gun. He told the dispatcher that the guy could be a juvenile and the gun might be a “fake,” information that wasn’t conveyed to the officers. Loehmann shot Tamir within two seconds after the police cruiser stopped near the boy.
A county prosecutor announced in December 2015 that Loehmann and Garmback wouldn’t be indicted. After that, Williams ordered a committee to determine if the officers violated department rules.
“There’s a 12-year-old kid, dead. People on both sides are going to say, ‘It wasn’t enough, it was too much,’?” said Williams. “We have to be fair and objective.”
Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, called the discipline “unjustified” and said the union filed grievances minutes after they were announced.
“This is a politically motivated witch hunt,” Loomis said. “Those officers acted appropriately and within the guidelines they had to work with.”
Loomis called Loehmann’s firing a “joke,” saying that officers haven’t been fired in the past over job applications.
Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said she was relieved Loehmann was fired. “He should never have been a police officer,” she said. But she said Garmback also should have been fired for driving so close to her son.
She and her attorney, Subodh Chandra, said Cleveland city agencies suffered from systematic problems and that they hope a Department of Justice investigation will lead to rare federal civil rights charges.
“Shame on the city of Cleveland for taking so long to deal with the situation,” said Samaria Rice. “We still need accountability.”
Cleveland police brass said they have taken steps to curb the use of deadly force and overhaul their hiring process.
Two officers were disciplined in 2015 for failing to thoroughly check Loehmann’s personnel file before he was hired. Williams said the department now makes sure to read through all applicants’ personnel files and employment history.
Earlier this year, the 911 operator who took the call about Tamir was suspended for eight days for failing to tell the radio dispatcher that the caller had said Tamir could be a juvenile and the gun might be fake.
Garmback and Loehmann were both on administrative duty when they were notified of the disciplinary measures Tuesday morning. Loomis said the police union plans to apply for arbitration and hope to have the case before an arbitrator by the end of the summer.
Garmback could be back on patrol after his suspension, if Williams permits it. Cleveland police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia said he would first have to go through a reintegration program.