For the first time since the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, never-before-seen interviews of the officers involved in the November 2014 shooting have been released.
Officers Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann sat down with investigators a few days after the shooting, giving their accounts of what happened outside the Cudell Recreation Center that day. The video-recorded interviews, released by Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra, offer new insight into the officers’ mindset at the time but also raises questions about the story Loehmann had previously told a grand jury in his written statement.
In the video, Garmback told investigators that on the day of the shooting, he and Loehmann responded to a 911 call about a man brandishing a gun in a park just outside the recreation center. Rookie cop Loehmann said that, while en route, Garmback, acting as his field training officer, briefed him on how to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“[Loehmann] said, ‘I would get out of the car. I’d get in a certain stance,'” Garmback recalled for investigators. “I stopped him at that point and said, ‘This is a gun run. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Have your gun unholstered already on your lap.'”
Once they arrived at the scene, Loehmann said he spotted Rice.
“He looks at me, he lifts up his shirt, and he takes his other hand and reaches down and, like, pulls up … begins to pull up a weapon, a black gun,” the rookie officer said, adding that he’d repeatedly yelled at Rice to drop his gun.
“I started screaming verbal commands, ‘Put your hands in the air,’ ‘Put your hands in the air,’ ‘Let me see your hands,’ ‘Freeze,’ ‘Put your hands in the air,’ ” Loehmann continued. “I said it numerous times.”
The officer said that he opened his car door slightly, presented his weapon and began yelling commands when the cruiser was about 30 yards from the boy. This account contradicts the written statement Loehmann provided a grand jury in November 2015, in which he said he hadn’t opened the door and started shouting until the car “slid to a stop.” He ultimately fired that shots that killed Rice.
Rice’s family also disputed the officer’s statements, saying videos released from the deadly shooting indicate there wasn’t enough time for Loehmann to yell all those commands before firing his gun as quickly as he did.
“As public anguish regarding young Tamir’s slaying continues, the physically impossible accounts and inconsistencies the officers offer in their video-recorded interviews raise the stakes for this last chance at public accountability through the absurdly delayed discipline process,” Chandra said.
Garmback was visibly upset during the interview, at one point putting his hands over his face and saying, “I didn’t know it was a kid.” He also recalled the agonizing moments he waited for paramedics to arrive after his partner shot and killed Rice.
“He’s barely breathing and there is no rescue squad there,” Garmback said, adding that he’d asked dispatchers to send EMS crews multiple times. “Finally, I’m holding it, holding it, [pressure on the wound] [and] fire comes up … they are walking so slow. Other units who were on scene tell them to speed it up, get over there, they still walk slow.”
A grand jury ultimately declined to indict the two officers in the Cleveland boy’s death but both still face administrative charges not directly related to the shooting. According to Fox 8 Cleveland, Loehmann faces administrative charges including disorderly, immoral or unethical conduct while on duty and fraudulent conduct or false statements in any application or examination for a position in the Civil Service of the City. As for Garmback, he is accused of administrative charges that include neglect of duty, incompetent or inefficient performance of duties and failure of good behavior.
Emergency dispatcher, Constance Hollinger, was found to have violated protocol that day for failing to tell officers that Rice’s gun was likely a fake. She was suspended for eight days.
Supporters of the two officers maintain that they did nothing wrong in their response to Rice.