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Loehmann quits: Tioga police officer who killed Tamir Rice withdraws application

Timothy Loehmann, as he was sworn into the Tioga Police Department. FACEBOOK PHOTO

Tioga Borough Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, hired on a probationary period on Tuesday, has withdrawn his application and will step down from the community’s police force, Borough Council President Steve Hazlett confirmed Thursday morning.

Tioga Borough Council will have a special meeting at 6 p.m., July 12 to likely accept the withdrawal.

Loehmann, who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014, was the focus of protests in Tioga Wednesday night.

Hazlett thanked the protestors for speaking out and said he hopes for the best for the borough’s future.

“Their words were heard,” Hazlett said.

“While it is welcome news that Loehmann will never be entrusted with a badge and a gun in Tioga, it nevertheless remains disturbing that this happened in the first place,” Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the Rice family said. “Tioga officials need to do some serious soul-searching about their ineptitude and bad judgment. The borough’s residents need to demand answers.”

Hazlett described the hiring process for police in Tioga borough and contested a few key claims by Tioga Mayor David Wilcox. Hazlett says the applicant’s resume was “on the table” and available for Wilcox to review. Wilcox has said he was not provided with applications for potential borough officers.

Hazlett said Wilcox never opened the application during the discussion and that long-standing borough policy is that the applications could not leave the borough offices.

“There was a process,” Hazlett said.

Hazlett acknowledged that the council’s police committee — consisting of him, Alan Brooks and Bob Wheeler — knew of Loehmann’s past but said discussions between council members regarding the applicant would be confidential as they occurred in an executive session. Hazlett also would not comment on whether he had discussed Loehmann and his background with any borough residents before the vote to accept his application to join the force.

Hazlett said Loehmann’s name may have been inadvertently misspelled on one document during the process; he is confident that he correctly spelled it the night Loehmann was sworn in and in other documentation. He also said it is borough tradition for mayors to swear in new police officers.

Wilcox objected to Hazlett’s account of the process Thursday night.

“That couldn’t be any farther from the truth,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said he and members of borough council – specifically Brooks, Holly Irwin and Bill Preston – were kept in the dark about who Loehmann is.

“We were purposefully given the wrong last name,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said unethical behavior by some in the borough government – including Hazlett specifically – pre-dates his mayoral administration, saying he has documented specific instances of Hazlett and others contradicting earlier statements and claims.

“This is an extremely unfortunate event,” Wilcox said. “This is just another one of those instances.”

Hazlett lamented the severity of the backlash to what has transpired and was reluctant to comment further.

“It doesn’t matter which way I go with this, positive or negative, the critics will blow it up,” he said.

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