CLEVELAND – Internal disciplinary charges have been brought against two white police officers involved in the killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation center, city officials said. But a police union said the officer who fatally shot the boy “did nothing wrong that day.”
Disciplinary charges recommended against Officers Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir, and Frank Garmback, who was driving their cruiser, were sent to the city’s safety director, police Chief Calvin Williams said. The director will determine what action might be taken regarding the disciplinary charges, which city officials didn’t specify during a Friday evening news conference. Disciplinary hearings will be held.
The two officers went to the recreation center in November 2014 after a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus there called 911 to report a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. The caller told the 911 dispatcher the guy was probably a juvenile and the gun might be “fake,” information never relayed to the officers.
Loehmann shot Tamir within seconds of the police cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy. The officers told investigators Loehmann had shouted three times at Tamir to raise his hands.
The killing became part of a national outcry about minorities, especially black boys and men, dying at the hands of police.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Friday that Loehmann and Garmback received the letters along with a third officer, William Cunningham.
The newspaper said the letters outlined these reasons for the discipline:
Loehmann allegedly lied on his Cleveland police application, not disclosing that when he worked at the Independence Police Department for six months a letter was placed in his personnel file saying he was emotionally immature and had “an inability to emotionally function.” The disciplinary letter also said Loehmann had an emotional breakdown on the gun range in Independence and that he failed a 2009 written exam when he applied for an officer’s job in Maple Heights. It said Loehmann never mentioned the Maple Heights test.
Garmback drove his cruiser too close to Tamir when Garmback responded to what he thought was an armed suspect and he failed to report the time he arrived at the scene.
Cunningham, who was working off-duty at the recreation center, was accused of lying to investigators and working off-duty at the center without permission.
The Cuyahoga County prosecutor announced in December 2015 that Loehmann and Garmback wouldn’t be indicted after telling a grand jury there wasn’t evidence to support criminal charges.
The Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association said Friday it was “encouraged” that Loehmann wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing regarding his response to the events of Nov. 22, 2014, which it called “tragic.”
“Nevertheless, all agree that Officer Loehmann was not wrong in reacting the way he did,” union president Stephen S. Loomis said in a statement. “It appears that the actual charges are created to discipline him, and perhaps discharge him, despite the fact that he did nothing wrong that day.”
The union said it was “disappointing” that Garmback was charged with “making a tactical error on his approach, when it is apparent that the car slid in the ice and mud well beyond what he intended.”
The union said it was reviewing the disciplinary charges and would prepare appropriate defenses for the officers. It said there would be no comment from the officers.
A Rice family attorney had called for the firings of the two officers. The attorney, Subodh Chandra, sent a letter to the police chief on Jan. 3 questioning why they hadn’t been fired or disciplined.
Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, settled a federal civil rights lawsuit with the city for $6 million.