Ohio boy, 13, with BB gun shot and killed by police
Chief shows images of replica BB gun, says it 'looks like a firearm that could kill you'
An officer responding to a reported armed robbery shot and killed a 13-year-old boy during a chase when the teen pulled from his waistband a BB gun that looked "practically identical" to a police weapon, authorities said Thursday.
Lawyers for the boy's family, however, say the police "version of events has yet to be confirmed by independent witnesses."
Because the officer was white and the boy black, the case has brought comparisons with the 2014 fatal shooting in Cleveland of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Columbus police have just begun their investigation but say the differences in the Wednesday night shooting of Tyre King and the Cleveland case are stark.
"The only thing similar in nature is the age, race and outcome," said Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner. "The facts are not similar."
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According to a 911 transcript obtained by the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, several young men approached a man in the street Wednesday — one with a gun — and demanded money. The victim handed over $10.
Officers investigating the report Wednesday spotted three males east of downtown Columbus who matched the description of the suspects, authorities said. Two of them ran away when officers tried to speak with them.
The police chased the pair into a nearby alley and tried to take them into custody. That's when Tyre pulled out a gun, and an officer fired his weapon, hitting the boy repeatedly, police said.
Tyre died at a children's hospital.
Police reviewing evidence from the scene determined the boy's firearm was actually a BB gun with an attached laser sight.
2nd deadly encounter for officer
Authorities identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as a nine-year veteran of the force named Bryan Mason.
In December 2012, Mason shot a man who was holding another man at gunpoint. Officers said the armed man refused orders to drop his weapon and was shot.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that investigators concluded Mason acted within policy in that case.
The head of the local police union that represents Mason didn't immediately respond to a message Thursday.
Police said Thursday that they couldn't immediately provide other information from Mason's personnel record.
Police show photos of BB gun
At a news conference Thursday, police Chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo of what she described as a "replica" of the BB gun that Tyre had.
"Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon," she said. "As you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you."
Mason has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, per department protocol, Jacobs said.
Attorneys for Tyre's family have called for a fair and independent investigation into the boy's death.
"There are allegations that have been made regarding [Tyre's] actions, and those allegations cannot be taken as factual until a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place," lawyer Sean L. Walton said in a statement issued Thursday by the law firm Walton & Brown, LLP. "Please keep that in mind as we discuss the killing of this 13-year-old child."
'A child who was loved'
Walton declined to discuss any previous interaction Tyre had with police, but he emphasized that Tyre didn't have a violent criminal history. He said the family believed that Tyre being involved in an armed robbery would be "out of character" for him.
Tyre played football and was in the young scholars program at school, Walton said. The boy also had a slight build and, if anything, was on the small side for his age, the attorney said.
Vigil happening now in memory of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TyreKing?src=hash">#TyreKing</a> who was killed in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Columbus?src=hash">#Columbus</a> police shooting. <a href="https://t.co/a43woZIn8U">pic.twitter.com/a43woZIn8U</a>—@tarawsyx6
"Our preliminary research indicates that Tyre was a child who was loved and cherished by his family. The grief is worsened further by the fact that this death comes at the hands of a man who was sworn to protect the citizens of Columbus," attorney Chanda L. Brown said.
'Our obsession with guns and violence'
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther questioned why an eighth-grader would have a replica of a police firearm.
"There is something wrong in this country, and it is bringing its epidemic to our city streets," Ginther said. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."
The Dispatch identified the second male who ran into the alley as Demetrius Braxton, 19, who told the newspaper in an interview that he was with King for both the robbery and the shooting. He was interviewed by police and released.
"I was in the situation. We robbed somebody, the people I was with," Braxton said, according to the Dispatch.
Braxton told the paper that following the robbery the suspects were chased by police.
"The cops said to get down. We got down but my friend [Tyre] got up and ran," Braxton said. "He started to run. When he ran, the cops shot him."
Braxton told the paper that King was shot four or five times, asking: "Why didn't they Tase him?"
Tamir Rice comparisons
There was no chase in Tamir's case. A caller reported someone pointing a gun at people near a recreation centre, and a rookie officer shot Tamir almost immediately after his police cruiser stopped nearby.
The caller had said the person was likely a juvenile and the weapon was probably fake, but the call taker never passed that information to the dispatcher of the responding officers.
In that case, the grand jury concluded that the officer and his partner reasonably believed that it was a real gun and that their lives were in danger, prosecutors said.
With files from CBC News and Reuters