The former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 withdrew from the police force of a tiny Pennsylvania town on Thursday amid community backlash and media scrutiny over his hiring.
Timothy Loehmann was sworn in this week as the lone police officer in Tioga — a community of about 600 people in rural north-central Pennsylvania, 300 miles (483 kilometers) from Cleveland — but left the position without having worked a single shift, according to Borough Council President Steve Hazlett.
“The community spoke. They got their feelings out, and we listened to them and we’re going to react to it and that will be that,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “We thank the community for stepping forward and letting their voices be heard.”
Rice, who was Black, was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014, when he was shot and killed by Loehmann seconds after Loehmann and his partner arrived. The officers told investigators Loehmann had shouted three times at Tamir to raise his hands.
The shooting sparked community protests about police treatment of Black people, especially after a grand jury decided not to indict the white officer or his partner.
Cleveland settled a lawsuit over Tamir’s death for $6 million, and the city ultimately fired Loehmann for having lied on his application to become a police officer.
Loehmann has since made multiple attempts to find work in law enforcement. He landed a part-time position with a police department in the southeast Ohio village of Bellaire 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 in Tioga remained a mystery Thursday.
Hazlett would not say whether Loehmann told council about the Tamir Rice case when he applied, or whether council knew of his background when voting to hire him. “The process is private and personal. We don’t share it. It doesn’t leave his folder,” he said.
Mayor David Wilcox told cleveland.com he “was under the impression that there was a thorough background check into him, that he didn’t have any 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 with drawn his application.” Hazlett said council will meet next week to take action on Loehmann’s application and consider next steps.
Word 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’s all well and good that Loehmann will not be inflicting a reign of terror with a badge and a gun upon Tioga Borough residents and visitors, borough officials must be held accountable for their demonstrably, atrociously poor judgment and ineptitude,” Subodh Chandra, one of the attorneys who represented the family in their civil suit, said in a statement Thursday.
“This game of whack-a-mole with Loehmann shamelessly and repeatedly resurfacing as a cop elsewhere needs to end,” he said.
Messages were left at phone numbers associated with Loehmann.
Hazlett said council did not ask Loehmann to step aside, and he declined to speculate on whether council would have done so had Loehmann not made the first move.
He said Tioga still hopes to hire a police officer.