TIOGA, Pa. (AP) — The former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 retired from the small-town Pennsylvania police force on Thursday amid community backlash and the scrutiny of his hiring by the media.
Timothy Loehmann was sworn in this week as the sole police officer in Tioga — a community of about 600 people in rural north-central Pennsylvania, 300 miles (483 kilometers) from Cleveland — but left the post without having worked only one shift, according to borough council chairman Steve Hazlett.
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“The community has spoken. They expressed their feelings, and we listened to them and we will react and that will be it,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We thank the community for stepping forward and making their voices heard.”
Rice, who was black, was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center in Cleveland on November 22, 2014, when he was shot by Loehmann seconds after Loehmann and his partner arrived. Officers told investigators Loehmann three times yelled at Tamir to put his hands up.
The shooting sparked community protests over police treatment of black people, particularly after a grand jury decided not to indict the white officer or his partner.
Cleveland settled a lawsuit in Tamir’s death for $6 million, and the city ultimately fired Loehmann for lying about his application to become a police officer.
Loehmann has since made several attempts to find work in law enforcement. He landed a part-time position with a police department in the village of Bellaire in southeastern Ohio in October 2018, but withdrew his application days later after Tamir’s mother, Samaria, and others criticized the hiring.
The circumstances of Loehmann’s hiring at Tioga remained a mystery Thursday.
Hazlett did not say whether Loehmann told the board about the Tamir Rice case when he applied, or whether the board knew about his background when they voted to hire him. “The process is private and personal. We don’t share it. He does not leave his file,” he said.
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Mayor David Wilcox told cleveland.com he “felt like he had a thorough background check, that he had no issues.” Wilcox, who said he was not involved in the hiring process, did not return a message from AP.
The borough said on its website Thursday that Loehmann “has officially withdrawn his candidacy.” Hazlett said the board would meet next week to take action on Loehmann’s request and consider next steps.
News that he had been hired as Tioga’s new police officer drew protesters to the borough building on Wednesday night and prompted condemnation from Tamir’s family.
“While it is all well and good that Loehmann does not inflict a reign of terror with a badge and a gun on Tioga Borough residents and visitors, Borough officials must be held accountable for their judgment. and their patently and excruciatingly evil ineptitude,” Subodh Chandra, one of the attorneys who represented the family in their civil suit, said in a statement Thursday.
“This mole game with Loehmann resurfacing shamelessly and repeatedly as a cop elsewhere must end,” he said.
Messages were left at phone numbers associated with Loehmann.
Hazlett said the board did not ask Loehmann to step aside, and he declined to speculate that the board would have done so if Loehmann had not taken the first step.
He said Tioga still hopes to hire a policeman.
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