Negligence and Racism killed a twelve-year-old

Did the two contribute to the death of Tamir Rice?


Mari Boyle, Cal Times Contributor

    On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police officer, Timothy Loehmann, in Cleveland, Ohio. On December 28, 2015, Timothy Loehmann was not indicted. The reasoning behind this, according to prosecutor S. Lamar Sims, was that Rice posed a “threat of serious, physical harm or death” and that the response to kill Tamir Rice was reasonable. This is due to the fact that Tamir Rice had an airsoft gun on him at his time of death. While the concrete cause of death in Tamir Rice’s case was a bullet to the chest, in abstract thought, the cause of his death was negligence and racism.

     The first act of negligence was when the Cleveland Police Department hired Timothy Loehmann as a police officer. Prior to his hiring in March, 2014, Tim Loehmann worked at the Independence Police Department. In a report by Deputy Chief Jim Polak, Tim Loehmann was deemed emotionally immature, he circumvented direction, and it was ultimately suggested he be let go. In a state range qualification course, Loehmann was “distracted and weepy,” could not communicate clear thoughts, his handgun performance was “dismal,” and could not follow directions. It was found these actions were the result of an issue with Loehmann’s girlfriend. These events continued to occur which ultimately led Polak to conclude that Loehmann showed a lack of maturity, inability to follow instructions, and indiscretion. Polak also stated that Loehmann was unable to “understand the severity of his loss of control on the range.” Polak attributed Loehmann’s inability to make good decisions during stressful situations and Loehmann’s mindset that Loehmann knows best as reason to end Loehmann’s employment with Independence Police Department. “I do not believe time nor training will be able to change or correct these definicies,” Polak wrote. In December of 2012, Loehmann resigned before he was fired. Loehmann was then turned down for a job by multiple police stations, including Akron, Euclid, and Parma Heights. However, Loehmann was hired by the Cleveland Police Department in March, 2014. When asked why the Cleveland Police Department hired Loehmann even after the report deemed him unfit, the department said they did not review his personnel file before hiring him. Negligence.

    Fast forward to November 22, 2014, when 911 receives a call from a man in the park. He state “there is a guy with a pistol; it’s probably fake, but he’s pointing it at everyone.” The caller repeats that the weapon is probably fake and the person is probably a juvenile. The 911 responder asks what the person looks like and if he is black or white. The caller responds he has a camouflage hat, gray pants, and is black. The 911 dispatcher calls Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback to alert them of the situation. The dispatcher neglects to inform them that the gun is probably fake and that the person is a juvenile, but remembers to tell the officers his race. Loehmann and Gramback pull up to the scene and less than a second of Loehmann opening his car door, Loehmann shoots and kills Tamir Rice. Witnesses of the event testified that they did not hear any verbal commands from Loehmann before the shooting. Loehmann was not indicted because the courts reasoned that this twelve year old boy with a BB gun gave Loehmann reason to fear for his life.

   Tamir Rice’s second cause of death is racism. In early January, an all-white group of men in Oregon, led by Ammon Bundy, occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They identify as a militia group and carry their guns as they protest the arrest of two ranchers and the tyrannical federal government. This militia group was in a stand-off with the police since January 2nd. It was not until January 27, 2016 that police began making arrests after shots were fired. Why is a twelve year old black boy with a fake gun seen as a threat and a group of armed white men are not?

   Enslavement, legal segregation, and past and current racism have contributed to a crippling cycle in which the majority of African Americans live in poverty and cannot afford a higher education, work low wage jobs, and are unable to support their children who, due to circumstance, are doomed to repeat the pattern. These children continuously grow up with systemic racism and are more likely to be introduced to street crime and gang violence. This only furthers the institutional discrimination in America in which African Americans are perceived as threats and are deemed justifiably murdered by a cop with low self-control. Yet, Bundy’s armed militia group were in a month long stand-off.