CLEVELAND (AP) — A Cleveland policeman who fatally shot a 12-year-old thought the boy's pellet gun was a real firearm and later said he had no choice, the officer's father said.
The Nov. 22 shooting of Tamir Rice by 26-year-old police rookie Tim Loehmann outside a recreation center sparked protests in the area. Surveillance video shows Loehmann firing within two seconds of a patrol car stopping near Rice, who reached in his waistband for what turned out to be a pellet gun.
Loehmann's father, Fred Loehmann, of Parma, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group (http://bit.ly/1wiyIHu ) that the officer didn't know how young the boy was.
He recalled his son saying: "I was right there and he went for the gun. I had no choice."
Through their lawyer's spokesman, Rice's family declined to comment on any details about Loehmann. His funeral is planned Wednesday.
The city, so far, has not released statements taken from Loehmann and his police partner or their personnel files. Loehmann, who joined Cleveland police in March after spending several months with the police department in suburban Independence, is described by others as a quiet, respectful guy who grew up in Catholic schools and tried to follow in his father's footsteps, the publishing group said.
Fred Loehmann, who spent decades in law enforcement with New York police and the U.S. Marshals Service, said his son initially was in shock after the shooting, but is now doing "pretty well."
"He's living his life," the father said. However, the family has received threats since police publicly identified the officers involved, he said.
The police department is investigating the officer's use of deadly force, and the county prosecutor has said the case will be presented for a grand jury to decide whether any charges are merited.
Loehmann and his partner, 46-year-old Frank Garmback, have returned to work from administrative leave, but are not back on patrol.
Fred Loehmann said he understands something about the situation his son faced because of an experience he had during his own career in New York in 1972. He saw an armed robbery suspect with something silver in his hand but opted not to shoot, and it turned out to be a gun-shaped cigarette lighter, he said.
"If it would have been a real gun, I'd be dead," he said.
New York police couldn't verify those details, but a spokesman confirmed an F. Loehmann worked there for two decades.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com