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The Maple Heights police rookie who fatally shot a fleeing suspect in the back was forced months earlier to resign as a patrolman in another suburban Cleveland police department, 3News Investigates has learned.
Patrolman Terrance Duncan was on the Maple Heights force for about a month when he fired a single shot as Da’Twuan Catchings was climbing a fence outside a home on McCurdy Avenue near Buckeye Road last May.
In addition, 3News Investigates has found that Duncan was paired with a training officer who was also forced out of his previous department.
Patrolman Matthew Mijangos was hired by Maple Heights in 2018 despite resigning amid termination threats by Highland Hills police brass for repeated policy violations, according to records obtained by 3News Investigates.
The history of the two officers is now drawing comparisons to former Cleveland patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who was hired despite previous training issues while working for Independence police.
Loehmann was on patrol when he shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on Cleveland’s west side in 2014.
“[Maple Heights] knew before they hired both of those officers,” said Stanley Jackson, a civil rights attorney representing the Catchings family. “Just like in the Tamir Rice case, right?"
“[Maple Heights] should have learned from that and to see [they] can’t hire an officer incapable of performing even the minimal tasks. The mayor is responsible. The chief of police is responsible for that.”
Maple Heights Police Chief Todd Hansen could not immediately comment on the hiring of Duncan and Mijangos. The shooting remains under investigation by the Cleveland Division of Police.
Duncan, 26 and a former U.S. National Guardsman, was hired in 2016 as a patrolman for the Kent State University police force. He was disciplined there for his handling of a drunken driver during the arrest and his conduct during a high-speed chase.
He left Kent State when he was hired by the Brooklyn Police Department in 2019.
But Duncan soon found himself being reprimanded for a series of policy infractions relating to basic police work, such as mishandling evidence when he placed a cell phone atop his cruiser and drove away.
He repeated the infraction in 2021 when he confiscated a driver’s license plates and left them on top of his cruiser. He had other issues with properly writing traffic tickets, reports show.
By August of 2021, Duncan’s probation period was ending when he received a phone call from the police union attorney. Duncan was told Brooklyn was offering a “severance package if he mutually agreed to quit.”
“Duncan stated that he agreed to resign,” according to Maple Heights records.
Duncan worked a seasonal shift for UPS during the 2021 holidays but was unemployed when he applied to work with the Maple Heights Police Department.
Duncan was hired by Maple Heights on April 22. In a department survey, he specifically asked for more firearm training.
“I would like more ‘shoot-don’t shoot’ scenarios,” Duncan wrote.
Mijangos, assigned to be Duncan’s training officer, worked for eight years at Highland Hills, accumulating a series of infractions that led to his resignation in 2016, records show. He was once accused of using an improper restraint technique to make an arrest, and mishandling a pursuit of a fleeing motorist.
Reports show he violated pursuit policy while chasing a driver sought for a misdemeanor and left the city limits, crashing, ironically, in Maple Heights.
Mijangos was twice placed in “last chance” status for his conduct, records show.
He was later accused of rude behavior during a training session and that set in motion a dispute in which Highland Hills initially fired Mijangos, but later allowed him to resign, records show.
Mijangos left to work with Wellington police, records show. He has been with Maple Heights since 2018.
Highland Hills later offered to rehire Mijangos, according to personnel records.
A Maple Heights officer, who conducted Mijangos’ background search, wrote in a report that “to an ordinary person, Mijangos should’ve been terminated for the pursuit policy violation [in Highland Hills] as it was a grievous violation of his last-chance agreement.”
Catchings’ father, Deane, said he doesn’t understand why his son was shot while both hands were on the fence.
He also doesn't grasp why either officer was permitted to work for Maple Heights.
“You can’t even get through probation period and you get hired on? Come on,” he said.
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