The former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to review his termination, making him the second officer in a high-profile police shooting case to make the request.
The Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union representing Cleveland police officers, is trying to revive its efforts to help reinstate Timothy Loehmann. The union had an unsuccessful attempt in an appeals court last month, where a three-judge panel upheld Loehmann’s termination, saying that the union didn’t properly file court records with attorneys for the city of Cleveland in a timely manner.
Loehmann was fired in 2017 for lying on his job application to join the Cleveland police force, an internal affairs investigation found. The young officer wrote on his application that he left Independence Police Department for “personal reasons,” but records show that the department determined him to be unfit with “an inability to emotionally function,” The Washington Post reported. Loehmann was permitted to resign instead of being fired.
Union lawyers asked Ohio’s highest court to send its case back to the appeals court to make it rule on claims such as Loehmann’s firing being in violation of the bargaining agreement between the union and the city.
Rice was killed after Loehmann responded to an emergency call about a “guy with a pistol” on a swing at a local recreation center who was pulling a “probably fake” gun out of his pants and scaring people. The shooting sparked protests and activism around police reform.
Video showed that when Loehmann and his partner arrived at the scene, he hopped out of the police car and shot Rice. The boy was playing with a BB gun near a gazebo at the time.
In 2016, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6 million without admission of wrongdoing to settle a lawsuit by Rice’s family.
Loehmann is the second officer involved in a high-profile fatal shooting to request a review of his dismissal. Last week, Garrett Rolfe, the White officer who shot and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last June, asked a civil service board to consider reinstating him. With an attorney, Rolfe argued that he wasn’t given enough time to defend himself against his firing.
Both cases mention outside pressure for accountability as factors in the firings. Union lawyers argued that there was no “substantial review from either the Trial Court or the Appellate Court” about the union’s concerns. The union “was denied a fair and impartial review of an unfortunately and unfairly political influenced process at all levels,” lawyers wrote in last week’s appeal.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told The Plain Dealer that the union just wants the merits of the case to be heard.
“It’s his constitutional right to go forward on this and it’s a political thing,” he told Fox 8 News. “He’s not getting his job back because of all the politics.”
Calls to Loehmann and Follmer for comment were not immediately returned.
The appeal came just a week after attorneys for Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, penned a letter to the Justice Department requesting that the agency reopen its investigation into his death.
“It is vital for DOJ to establish that those who enforce our laws are subject to our laws,” Rice’s attorney’s stated. “This case involves the unjustified killing of a child and a prosecution that was thwarted through political abuse. Fortunately, it is not too late to correct this manifest injustice.”
Subodh Chandra, an attorney on the legal team representing Samaria Rice, told The Post that requests such as the one the union is making are a common, “arrogant” practice.
“Just as the police union obtained coddling where the officers who killed Tamir got to read statements to the grand jury without being cross examined, they’re again demanding special treatment instead of competently following the rules like everyone else,” he said in a statement. “The union’s relentless campaign to foist upon the public an officer who slew a child shows you just how little credibility they have left — and how shameless they are in their persecution of the Rice family.”
For Samaria Rice, the union’s attempts come with painful reminders of the past.
“The police union should be ashamed of itself for still trying to put a dangerous police officer back on the street,” she said in a statement provided by her attorneys. “Every time they try to do this, they hurt my family and put the public at risk.”