U.S. News

Cleveland police dispatcher in Tamir Rice shooting suspended 8 days

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland police dispatcher was suspended for eight days for failing to warn officers in the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice that a 911 caller had described the scene as probably a child with a fake gun, the boy’s family lawyer said on Wednesday.

File photo: People march along the Brooklyn Bridge as they take part in a protest against the police in Manhattan, New York, December 28, 2015 after a grand jury cleared two Cleveland police officers on Monday in the November 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Reports of the suspension published in Cleveland on Tuesday led to criticism of authorities on social media under the Twitter hashtag #TamirRice, including “8 days suspension? How pathetic” and “the 911 dispatcher whose words lead to the terrible death of tamir rice, an INNOCENT 12 year old, should be FIRED, not simply suspended.”

The shooting of the black child, who was playing with a replica gun that fired plastic pellets, by two white police officers was one of several that fueled scrutiny of police use of deadly force across the United States, particularly against minorities.

The family’s lawyer Subodh Chandra said the dispatcher, Constance Hollinger, also received a disciplinary letter after a 10-month investigation that ended in February. An off-duty officer at the scene, William Cunningham II, was suspended for two days without pay.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, has urged that anyone involved in the shooting be fired and Chandra said the mother considered Hollinger’s eight day suspension without pay “unacceptable.”

Chandra publicly released a March 6 letter about the city’s decision on Tuesday evening.

City and police union officials confirmed the letter’s legitimacy.

The attorney for Hollinger, Keith Wolgamuth, could not be reached to comment.

Hollinger received a 911 call on Nov. 22, 2014 reporting that a man was waving a gun outside a Cleveland Recreation center. Two officers responded and one fatally shot Rice within seconds of arriving.

The letter from Public Safety Director Michael McGrath said Hollinger was disciplined because she neglected to tell responding officers that the 911 caller said Rice was “probably a juvenile” and the gun was “probably fake.”

Officer Frank Garmback had his disciplinary hearing Monday and a decision in his case is pending, police union president Steve Loomis said. The hearing for Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, has not been scheduled.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the officers in 2015.

A lawyer for the off-duty officer Cunningham, Henry Hilow, said he had not spoken to his client since the decision, so it was not yet known whether he would appeal. However, Hilow called it an “administrative violation.”

Last year, the city settled a civil lawsuit the family filed for $6 million.

Reporting by Kim Palmer, Editing by Ben Klayman and Grant McCool