Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, and his partner Frank Garmback are asking a federal judge to halt a lawsuit filed against them until the criminal investigation — and possible prosecution — into their actions is completed.
In a motion filed Monday afternoon by city attorneys, both officers seek to protect their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Halting the complaint until the criminal case is over would mean that Loehmann and Garmback can give depositions and testify at trial “without fear that their answers may be used against them in a separate criminal proceeding, where the stakes are significantly higher and their liberty is directly at risk,” the motion says.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether Loehmann, who fatally shot Tamir, 12, at Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22, and Garmback committed any criminal actions. After the investigation, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to present the case to a grand jury to determine whether charges are warranted.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Reanna Karousis said Monday that her office does not have a timetable for when it will receive a completed investigation.
In their motion, Loehmann and Garmback also say that putting the lawsuit on hold would ensure that the separate investigations would not prejudice each other.
“Here, it is undisputed the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Officer Garmback and Officer Loehmann about the same incident that is the subject of this civil action,” the motion reads. “If civil discovery were to proceed simultaneously at the same time, therefore, it would unduly interfere with the integrity of the criminal proceedings.”
It also says that “the public’s interest lies in the orderly prosecution of those who are accused of violating the state’s laws.”
The lawsuit was first filed in December and amended in January after Tamir’s family hired new attorneys. Tamir’s parents, Samaria Rice and Leonard Warner, were added as plaintiffs, as was his sister Tajai Rice.
It alleges the city, Loehmann, Garmback and 100 unknown 911 operators, police officers and city employees violated the family’s rights in the fatal Nov. 22 shooting. The boy was shot less than two seconds after the officers pulled up to the gazebo at the recreation center on West Boulevard.
Officers responded to a report of a man with a gun. The boy was holding a pellet gun.
The city has denied the family’s allegations and said that “contributory and/or comparative negligence” led to Tamir’s death and their family’s pain and suffering.
The officers have not formally responded to the Rice family’s lawsuit. Though their responses are due April 27, they are also asking the judge to allow them to wait until after their other request is addressed.