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Ex-Cleveland officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice resigned from Pennsylvania department, attorney says

Steve Hazlett, the president of the Tioga Borough Council, announced Timothy Loehmann’s hiring Tuesday, sparking backlash in the small community.
Tomiko Shine
Tomiko Shine holds up a picture of Tamir Rice during a protest in Cleveland on Dec. 1, 2014.Jose Luis Magana / AP file

Timothy Loehmann, the former Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, resigned from a Pennsylvania police department after his hiring sparked outrage, his attorney said.

Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice.Family Photo

Steve Hazlett, the president of the Tioga Borough Council in Pennsylvania, announced Loehmann's hiring Tuesday, posting a Facebook picture of the officer being sworn in. The photo, which was deleted Thursday, led to some fury on the social media platform.

"This doesn’t look good for you David Wilcox I’m not rocking with this decision," a person wrote in a comment to the borough's mayor.

Another person wrote that Loehmann should not be hired as an officer in any state. "If barred from 1 state that should be the end of his profession," the person commented.

Wilcox and the Borough Council did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails Thursday. Loehmann could not be reached at phone numbers listed for him.

Loehmann’s attorney, Henry Hilow, said that because of the backlash, his client quit because he does not want to be a distraction.

Wilcox had addressed the fallout on Facebook.

"This has nothing to do with me. Council hires, fires and background checks. I literally wasn’t even allowed to take his resume with me the day they interviewed him," he posted.

Wilcox also shared a video from a council meeting at which a council member pronounced Loehmann's last name as "Lochmann." Wilcox posted the clip so residents "understand who I thought Borough Council was hiring," he wrote.

The mayor later called for Hazlett and two other council members, Robert Wheeler and Doreen Burnside, to step down. In a Facebook post on Thursday, he insinuated that the members knew of Loehmann's hiring and said the town expects their resignation at a meeting on Tuesday.

Loehmann was interviewed about a month ago, Wilcox told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. He said that he sat in on the interview but did not have the candidate's résumé.

"The police committee, which the president of council and vice president of council, assured after going through the candidates and meeting again, assured everyone on council and myself they had did a thorough background check and that he checked out, was a great person, you know, didn’t have any marks on his record and that we should hire him to try out on a 90-day probationary period," he said.

The council unanimously voted to hire Loehmann as an officer in the borough of roughly 700 people.

Samaria Rice
Samaria Rice speaks in Cleveland on Nov. 9 during a rally for her son Tamir Rice, who was killed by police.Ken Blaze / AP file

Hilow, however, said that the mayor was not blindsided by the hiring and that he was fully aware of Loehmann's background.

The Cleveland Police Department fired Loehmann in May 2017, about three years after he shot and killed Tamir, who was Black, outside the Cudell Recreation Center. Police were responding to a call that someone was pointing a gun at people, although the caller told the dispatcher that the gun looked fake. That information was never relayed to Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback.

Video of the fatal encounter in November 2014 showed Loehmann, who is white, firing at Tamir within seconds of getting out of his squad car. Tamir died a day after the shooting.

The Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to charge Loehmann, and the Justice Department did not file federal charges against him.

Loehmann's firing from the Cleveland police department was not related to Tamir's death. The department said it let him go because he had lied on his job application and failed to disclose that the Independence Police Department in Ohio had dismissed him after it deemed him unfit to serve.

He went on to land a job with the Bellaire Police Department in Ohio in 2018 but backed out of the part-time position following backlash.

Hilow said Loehmann is trying to move on from what happened, calling him a "good guy" who "has become a lightning rod wherever he goes."

"Tim [is] hoping this will all go away … but apparently it won’t," Hilow said.

In the years since the shooting, Tamir's mother has fought Loehmann's rehiring, writing in an amicus brief filed last year in the Ohio Supreme Court that he is "unfit to serve as a police officer, in Cleveland — or anywhere else."

She questioned why Tioga Borough would hire him.

"The system is broken and it’s continually broken," Samaria Rice told NBC affiliate WKYC of Cleveland. "And at this point when you talk about police reform, I’m having some doubts there. Because how do you reform the police department when you are putting police officers back as police officers in different states ... different counties? I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right."