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Lawsuit Over Police Killing of Cleveland Child

CLEVELAND (CN) - The cop who killed a 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in Cleveland last month was previously deemed "unfit for police duty," the boy's estate claims in Federal Court.

Tamir Rice had been playing in the park at the Cudell Recreation Center on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014, when someone called the police to report "that a person, 'probably a juvenile' was pointing a gun, 'probably fake,'" according to the complaint filed Friday.

Elizabeth Goodwin, the administrator of Tamir's estate on behalf of Rice's mother Samaira, notes that the boy was alone in the park and "was not pointing his imitation gun at anyone."

Video-surveillance footage of the shooting shows Cleveland police officer Frank Garmback "rapidly" driving his police cruiser across the park to Tamir, according to the complaint.

"Less than two seconds after appearing next to Tamir, defendant [officer Timothy] Loehmann shot Tamir twice, hitting him in the stomach at least once," Goodwin says.

"The officers then refused to provide any medical attention to Tamir for at least four minutes as he lay on the ground alive and bleeding."

Goodwin says the officers could have initiated the encounter from a safe distance at which they could "provide clear, unhurried commands to the startled young boy."

Instead they "rapidly confronted him with their cruiser and their guns and shot him all within two seconds," the complaint states.

"Young boys playing with replica guns are commonplace in America and police are expected to approach them safely if an investigation is warranted, not shoot them dead within two seconds," the complaint continues.

Goodwin notes that Tamir died in the hospital from his injuries on Nov. 23.

Claiming that Cleveland owes punitive damages for failure to train its officers, the complaint says Loehmann came to Cleveland from the Independence, Ohio, police force where "he was determined to be unfit for police duty and resigned from the police force."

"An official in Independence concluded defendant Loehmann, 'could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,'" Goodwin says. "That official determined, 'I do not believe that time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.'"

Anyone could have asked Independence for this personnel file and seen "that defendant Loehmann was unfit for police work," but Cleveland had a policy when it hired Loehmann "not to request, inspect or read the personnel files from previous law enforcement jobs held by persons selected as police recruits for the city of Cleveland," according to the complaint.

David Malik and Timothy Kuchaski, attorneys for Goodwin from Chesterland and Cleveland, respectively, filed the complaint one day after the U.S. Department of Justice released a report about Cleveland's "pattern of using unnecessary and excessive force."

Bookending Tamir's tragic death are the decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., not to indict police officers for similarly controversial uses of deadly force on unarmed black suspects.

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