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Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice is fired — but not for the killing

A rookie Ohio police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 was fired on Tuesday following an internal investigation. (Video: Reuters)

The Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 has been fired from the police department after an investigation concluded that he withheld details of his past employment when he applied to the department months before the shooting.

At a news conference Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced that Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir, has been terminated from the department effective immediately. Officer Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car at the time of the shooting, has been suspended for 10 days and will be required to attend additional tactical training after it was determined his tactics during the shooting violated department policies.

Tamir was killed in November 2014 when Loehmann, a rookie police officer, responded to a 911 call about a boy with a gun — a weapon that was described by the 911 caller as likely a fake — near a recreation center in Cleveland. However, multiple investigations found, the dispatcher failed to inform the responding officers that the caller said Tamir was “probably” a child and the gun was “probably fake.” Video from a nearby camera showed Garmback driving his cruiser up to where the boy was playing near a gazebo, and Loehmann leaping from the passenger seat. Seconds later, Tamir had been shot and was dying in the snow. The boy’s weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.

The shooting — one in a series of high-profile police killings of black men, women and children in late 2014 and early 2015 — prompted national outrage and nights of protest in Cleveland, but ultimately a grand jury declined to indict either Loehmann or Garmback.

Calls for calm after grand jury declines to indict officers in death of Tamir Rice

An internal affairs investigation would later conclude that he did not violate any department policies when he shot and killed Tamir.

But a separate investigation concluded that Loehmann had lied when he applied to work for the Cleveland Division of Police, which is the infraction that led to his firing.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the Rice family said the announcement that Loehmann would be fired for lying but not for killing Tamir “only added insult to the pain and grief.”

“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.” Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, said in a statement. “And Garmback should be fired too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir,”

The announcement brings to an end a more-than-two-year process that included investigations by Cleveland police, the local sheriff’s office, the county prosecutor, as well as a special Critical Incident Review Committee, which aimed to determine if any administrative violations had taken place.

“There’s a 12-year-old kid dead. People on both sides are going to say it wasn’t enough, it was too much,” Cleveland Division of Police Chief Calvin Williams said. “We have to go through our process, we have to be fair and objective to everybody involved in the process, and we have to make sure people understand we will continue to be fair and objective. And 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.”

The critical incident commission, convened in February 2016, looked into the tactics of both officers Loehmann and Garmback, as well as Constance Hollinger, the dispatcher who had summoned the officers to the park on that day and who was ultimately suspended for eight days as a result of her failure to provide them with all of the available information.

But Loehmann’s firing stems from yet another investigation, run by the city’s Department of Public Safety, which found he concealed key details about his near-firing from another local police department and his failed attempts to be hired at several other departments before applying to work for the Cleveland police.

At the time of the shooting, Loehmann had been with the Cleveland police for less than eight months. When he applied for the job, he told Cleveland police that he had resigned from the police force in a nearby suburb for “personal reasons.” But records show that the Independence Police Department had deemed Loehmann unfit to be an officer and that he had “an inability to emotionally function.” That department allowed Loehmann to resign rather than be discharged. Later, he applied to another suburban department but failed a written exam — which he also did not disclose when he applied for the Cleveland police force.

In a letter firing Loehmann dated May 30, 2017, Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath said that the investigation concluded that Loehmann told at least four lies about his prior employment as an officer when he applied to the department.

Investigators concluded that Garmback violated department policies when he allowed his patrol car to come so close to Tamir in the moments before the shooting and that he waited too long to tell dispatchers after he arrived at the park.

“You did not employ proper tactics when you failed to stop your zone car immediately upon entering Cudell Park,” McGrath wrote in a letter informing Garmback of his 10-day suspension. “You failed to report your arrival time to the radio dispatcher immediately upon arriving at the location.”

Chief Williams said Tuesday that the department and the city had learned a lot from Rice’s death.

“I think we’ve learned a lot from this incident as well as other incidents that have happened since 2014,” he said. “I think our officers have learned there are best approaches to incidents and, with the training they’re receiving to bolster the training they’ve had in the past, hopefully we won’t have any more incidents like this.”

This report has been updated.