Tioga, Pa. hires Timothy Loehmann, ex-Cleveland police officer who killed Tamir Rice

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Officials in the Borough of Tioga, Pennsylvania, are facing public criticism after hiring former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 in a case that drew national headlines.

Borough Mayor David Wilcox swore in Loehmann on Tuesday night after the borough council voted to approve his hiring as a police officer in the community of about 700 residents.

The move set off local protests in the borough, about eight miles south of the New York state line in northern Tioga County, along with a firestorm of criticism on social media.

“He’s a danger to the community. Who else’s child has to die before he’s locked up?” one user wrote on Borough President Steve Hazlett’s Facebook page.

“You’re that stupid? Did you and the rest of your (borough) leadership actually look into his background?” another user asked.

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, Officer Frank Garmback, arrived.

The white officers had been dispatched to the recreation center after a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus called 911 to report that a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. The caller told a 911 dispatcher that it was probably a juvenile and the gun might be “fake,” though that information was never relayed to the officers.

The incident, occurring just three months after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, set off nationwide protests, but in December 2015, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the officers.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would not reopen an investigation into Tamir’s death.

Loehmann was later fired from the Cleveland Police Department for lying on his job application.

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Tioga’s decision to hire Loehmann was also sharply criticized by Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, who co-represented the estate and family of Tamir Rice.

“Tioga officials apparently don’t care whether a police officer was considered mentally unfit for one department, lied on his application to another, rushed upon and slew a child, and then lied about calling out warnings to Tamir —when his window was rolled up on a winter’s day,” wrote in a statement posted on his law firm’s website. “Loehmann — who should never again be entrusted with a badge and gun — is shamelessly determined to inflict himself upon other communities.”

Wilcox couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, but he posted a message on Hazlett’s Facebook page in response to criticism, denying any responsibility for the hiring.

https://www.facebook.com/steve.hazlett.9/posts/pfbid02bu5JK1mpEtCg89LarLBKgCDaycxNMyQfsUFYiEwbWXAMCx2DBF8oWqokZK1TxvzUl

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

Wilcox made a similar statement while standing on the bed of a pickup truck addressing protesters, according to a video posted on social media by the Wellsboro Gazette.

In that statement, Wilcox said he was told there was an extensive background search, numerous phone calls made, and there were no negative comments on Loehmann’s record, and that he would be a great candidate for the town.

Hazlett, who posted a video on his Facebook page of Wilcox swearing in Loehmann at Tuesday’s meeting, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Tioga borough offices are closed all this week, according to the borough’s official website.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details as they become available.

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This article originally appeared on Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Tioga County PA hires Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice