The former Cleveland officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 resigned Thursday as the lone police officer in a small Pennsylvania town, two days after his swearing-in sparked backlash from residents and the mayor.
Loehmann was sworn in Tuesday after a unanimous vote by the council, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported. The newspaper and other local media were told the town was hiring an officer by the name of Timothy Lochmann.
Council President Steve Hazlett clarified on Facebook on Wednesday 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 Loehmann fatally shot him in November 2014, spurring nationwide protests over law enforcement’s use of deadly force against Black people.
“Timothy Loehmann is your new Tioga police officer,” Hazlett wrote.
The hiring sparked protests and anger, including from Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, who told The Washington Post on Thursday morning before Loehmann’s resignation that the decision was “a big mistake.”
“He shouldn’t 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, said in a statement that his firm would be “investigating” the circumstances of Loehmann’s hiring, beginning by filing a public records request.
“Borough officials must be held accountable for their demonstrably, atrociously poor judgment and ineptitude,” Chandra said.
Tioga Borough Mayor David Wilcox said he was not made aware of Loehmann’s background when the 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 résumé, 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 didn’t 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.”
Following Loehmann’s resignation Thursday, Wilcox on Facebook called for three members of the borough council, including Hazlett, to step down at a special meeting to be held next week.
Neither Hazlett nor a representative with Tioga’s police department immediately responded to requests for comment early Thursday. Hazlett told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that “we advertise on Indeed,” the job search website, in response to questions about how the search committee found Loehmann.
News of the hiring 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. Eight officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of state and local probes.
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, Loehmann shot Rice from the passenger seat of a patrol car within seconds of arriving at a park where the 12-year-old was playing with a pellet gun, which officials have said was indistinguishable from a regular pistol. Amid several other high-profile police killings of Black people around the time, the shooting drew national outrage and protests, but a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann in December 2015.
Loehmann was ultimately fired by 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. The city of Cleveland agreed to pay Rice’s relatives $6 million as part of a civil settlement.
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 didn’t 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 Wednesday.
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.”
She added, “Timothy Loehmann is connected to Tamir Rice, and that’ll never change.”
Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.