In November 2014, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy, played with a toy pellet gun in the park. Minutes later, a concerned 9-1-1 call was made and police officers arrived on the scene. Seconds later, a white officer fatally shot the innocent boy.
Today, the killer, Timothy Loehmann, spends his free time playing for the Cleveland Warriors, an amateur football team based in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2014, the city of Cleveland claimed that Rice was to blame for his death, contending that it was “caused by the failure of [Tamir] to exercise due care to avoid injury.” They later withdrew this statement.
In 2015, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office announced that Loehmann and his co-officer would not face criminal charges.
According to the LA Times, in 2017, Loehmann was fired from the police force, though not as a result of Rice’s death. He was dismissed for lying on his application, in addition to withholding information about a previous resignation during his time as an officer in Missouri.
In that instance, Loehmann stepped down to escape being fired for a history of deceit and disobedience, as well as for events such as him mishandling his gun.
Due to these minimal charges, Loehmann has been able to participate on the Cleveland Warriors semi-pro football team for years. This team is for current first responders and police officers, but they made an exception for Loehmann, according to the New York Times.
From 2017-2019, though he had been fired, Loehmann played on the Warriors while waiting to hear back about his arbitration appeal. Even today, he continues to protest his dismissal from the police force.
During this period, Loehmann played alongside a man named Randy Knight, an ex-corrections officer who is Black, for over two seasons. Loehmann’s identity remained unbeknownst to Knight all the while.
According to the Cleveland Scene, this was made possible by the coaches, who always introduced Loehmann by his first name if not a nickname such as Tim or Timmy. Other players were always called by their last names, says Knight.
According to the NY Times, only in 2019 did Knight realize Loehmann’s full identity, after being asked how he could play for a racist team by another amateur football player. Learning of Loehmann’s involvement in the murder made Knight outraged, prompting him to speak out about the killer’s involvement with the team.
But, Warriors Coach, Bill Sofranko, has been known to protect Loehmann. While the coach said he was not initially aware of the players’ involvement in the killing, he also said that his opinion of Loehmann was not negatively affected after learning of the incident.
“‘He been through a lot, and it eats him up at night,’” former Warriors player, Patrick Sullivan, recalled Sofranko saying, according to The Grio.
Knight took some time away from the Warriors but returned in January, having been assured that Loehmann was no longer a part of the team, according to the NY Times. But, when he showed up to practice a few weeks ago, Loehmann was indeed there. Before Knight could say anything, Sofranko notified him of his dismissal from the Warriors, on account of disruptive behavior.
According to the Cleveland Scene, Knight claims that six other players faced the same fate after objecting to Loehmann’s being on the team. As a result, instead of practicing inside the team’s facilities, Knight and others now protest outside of them.