The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice displayed ‘dismal’ handgun performance in exercise

Samaria Rice leaves the funeral services of her son Tamir in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Two years ago, when he was working for a police department in a Cleveland suburb, Tim Loehmann participated in firearms qualification training.

Loehmann struggled with the exercise, according to a memo penned Nov. 29, 2012, by Jim Polak, deputy chief of the Independence Police Department and obtained Wednesday by Northeast Ohio Media Group. He was “distracted” and “weepy,” Polak wrote, and did not seem “mentally prepared” for the task.

“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Polak wrote.

The letter recommended that the department split with Loehmann, who later resigned and went on to graduate from the city of Cleveland’s police academy. A Cleveland police spokesman told the media group that officers didn’t look at the file before hiring Loehmann.

“Unfortunately in law enforcement there are times when instructions need be followed to the letter, and I am under the impression Ptl. Loehmann, under certain circumstances, will not react in the way instructed,” the letter reads.

Loehmann’s file was released following the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed late last month when the rookie officer and his partner responded to an emergency call about a man pointing a gun at people in a park.

Tamir had been playing with a replica of a weapon. When Loehmann arrived at the scene, he jumped out of a cruiser and fired in a matter of seconds, according to surveillance video released by authorities last month.

Editor's note: This video contains graphic content. The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police while carrying a BB gun in a Cleveland park, authorized the release of surveillance footage showing the incident. (Video: Cleveland Police)

Tamir’s family and friends gathered Wednesday for a memorial service at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Cleveland. He was remembered as a competitive basketball player who liked to draw, and had fallen for a girl in his school, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.

“Tamir will never die because he lives inside each one of us. He has impacted all of our lives in one way or another, or we would not be here today,” his uncle, Mike Petty said, according to the media group. “The only way that Tamir will ever die, is if we as a family, as a city, as a community and as a nation forget what happened to a 12-year-old boy playing in the park on Saturday, November 22, 2014.”

The letter that details Loehmann’s firearms training also describes other troubling behavior. After he was issued a firearm, for example, Loehmann was told to secure it in a locker. A sergeant asked if he had a lock for the locker, and Loehmann told him he did. The sergeant later noticed that Loehmann’s locker didn’t have a lock, and eventually determined that he had left his firearm unsecured overnight.

“It appears from the pattern developing within our short time frame with Ptl. Loehmann that he often feels that when told to do something, that those instructions are optional, and that he can manipulate them if he so feels it can better serve him,” the letter reads. “I do not say he is doing this for some benefit, or in an insubordinate way, but he just appears to have the mind set that if he thinks he knows better, than that is the course he follows.”