Update, October 10, 2018, 5:45 pm ET:
Timothy Loehmann, the White Cleveland police officer who shot and killed Black 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, has withdrawn his application to work as a part-time police officer for the Bellaire Police Department, News 5 Cleveland reports.
Ohio’s Times Leader reported last Friday (October 5) that Timothy Loehmann, the White Cleveland police officer who fatally shot Black 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014, has been hired by another Ohio department, in Bellaire.
Even after four years, the details of the Rice case remain fresh: Tamir was playing by himself with a toy gun on the grounds of a community recreation center adjacent to his backyard. Responding to a 911 call, Loehmann shot the boy from a police cruiser within seconds of encountering him. The shooter and the driver, Frank Garmback, not only failed to help Tamir, but they tackled and detained his 14-year-old sister when she arrived to the scene.
A 2015 grand jury declined to indict the officers, but in 2016 the City of Cleveland settled the Rice family’s federal wrongful death lawsuit for $6 million. Still, the city didn’t acknowledge fault. It it took the department until 2017 to fire Loehmann, not for killing an unarmed 12-year-old but for failing to disclose information on his job application. He didn’t mention that officials at his old job in Independence, Ohio, found him emotionally unfit to be a police officer.
Rice’s mother, Samaria, said on Tuesday that she had been blindsided by the news of Loehmann’s new police job. Colorlines sat down with the mom and activist to talk about what it means to be re-traumatized and what she and her team plan to do next.
How are you doing with this being added on to everything you’ve already been through?
I’m just trying to hold on, to be strong for myself and also for my kids. It’s never easy to understand why this corrupt system will allow this murderer to be on anybody’s police force.
How did you hear about it and what were you doing at the time?
I was in the middle of a private tour at the Smithsonian [National Museum of African American History and Culture] on Saturday (October 7) with Maxwell, the R&B artist, and a couple of close friends of mine, just trying to enjoy myself. Around 2 p.m. my attorney called and left a message saying he wanted me to call him back right away. When I called him back, he told me that Timothy Loehmann had gotten a job in Bellaire, Ohio. A media outlet was asking if I could respond. I was just in a state of shock so I instructed my attorney, Subodh Chandra, to give a statement for me.
That must have been very disturbing.
It was very disruptive. Ironically, I was with one of the co founders of Black Lives Matter. One of the things I was discussing with her was the grand opening next year of the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center, which we are planning for his 17th birthday.
You’ve already been involved in mobilizing a response. Can you talk about that?
Well, I plan to go down state to the Bellaire police department to have a conversation with the chief of police and let him know, “Look, you’re making a horrible mistake. Officer Loehmann is mentally unstable, emotionally unstable. And he really does not need to be on anybody’s police force.” He lied about the murder of my son, but the Cleveland Police Department didn’t fire him for the killing. They fired him for lying on his application. So why hire him for a job on another police force? I don’t understand that at all. We’re being traumatized all over again.
You mentioned your children, how are they taking this news?
I’m just telling them to stay strong. My daughters are confused by this news and they are crying. My son is really angry. I have to try to just give them comfort.
What’s been the response been so far from the Bellaire department?
My attorney from Chicago, Billy Joe Mills, has reached out and asked the police chief of Bellaire to give us a call. So we’re waiting to hear back from him. I don’t really know if he will respond, but I plan on showing my face and having my presence felt down there to warn the people of that city and let the police department know that they’re making a horrible mistake.
The Bellaire police chief, Richard "Dick" Flanagan, has been quoted in media as saying that Loehmann was never arrested or charged and that "it’s over and done with."
One of the things I heard that the police chief said was that “everybody deserves a second chance.” Well, not when you murder a child in cold blood.
Given that we continue to see these type of setbacks, how do we measure the impact of the last four years of protests?
Of course there has been an impact, but the police force is not designed for us. It’s designed to protect the ones that look like them. It has gotten worse and worse each year. We have a system that is corrupt, and it needs to be dismantled. American police officers need to understand the concept of the humanity of another human being, whether people are, Black, White, purple, green or orange.
What about Cleveland’s 2015 consent decree with the Department of Justice that happened as a result of the police fatally shooting Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams 137 times? Has that changed what’s happening on the ground between police and the Black community?
No it hasn’t. The monitor for the Department of Justice has come to Cleveland at least four times since the consent decree was established in 2015, and the reforms the city and police agreed on have not yet been implemented. Judge Solomon Oliver has to put his foot down and say, "enough is enough." How many times is the Department of Justice going to come in and nobody does anything? It’s just like nobody is taking this matter seriously. If you have the power to make a change, why don’t you just do it?
What kinds of support are you hoping for from the activist community as you plan to respond to Bellaire police decision to hire Timothy Loehmann?
I’ve seen people responding to this on social media from all over the globe. A lot of folks are not happy because it’s just a slap in our face. I’m just hoping that people will continue to support me, show up if I need them to, and make it uncomfortable for those who are comfortable with traumatizing us.
And at least one news outlet reported that you are leading a protest this week. Are you?
I’m organizing with the local community downstate—in Bellaire and the in surrounding areas and with some of the community organizations that I work with throughout the state. We haven’t yet announced a date or the parameters of the protest. But I’m definitely looking for the activist community as my support because I can’t do it by myself. It’s like soon as we go one step forward, we go 10 steps back. And this was just a slap in our face.
Bakari Kitwana is the executive director of Rap Sessions, which is currently touring the nation leading discussions on the theme, “Toxic Masculinity.” He is also of the author of The Hip-Hop Generation and the forthcoming “Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era.”