AFRICANGLOBE – Police in Columbus, Ohio, claim officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery Wednesday night when they encountered a person who pulled what appeared to be a gun from his waistband.
An officer opened fire, hitting this person “multiple times,” according to Columbus police officials. He was pronounced dead not long afterward.
Early Thursday morning, police said the person killed was 13-year-old Tyree King. Detectives investigating the area where the shooting occurred allegedly found what they said appeared to be a handgun, but “upon further inspection, it was determined to be a BB gun with an attached laser site,” according to a statement from the Columbus police.
“We consider it a tragedy when something like this happens,” Kim Jacobs, the Columbus police chief, said at a news conference Thursday morning. “This is the last thing that a police officer wants to do in their career.”
Tyree is the second-youngest person fatally shot by a police officer this year, according to a database tracking such deaths.
The youngest person shot and killed by police this year was Ciara Meyer, a 12-year-old in Pennsylvania struck by a bullet during an eviction. Since the beginning of last year, the only person younger than Tyree and Ciara killed by police was Jeremy Mardis, a 6-year-old shot while his father tried to flee officers in Louisiana.
“Any loss of life is tragic, but the loss of a young person is particularly difficult,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said at the briefing Thursday. “As a mayor and a father, the loss of a 13-year-old in the city of Columbus is troubling.”
Police in Columbus said they were still searching for any video of the shooting, as there was when an officer in Cleveland murdered Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun, two years earlier. It did not appear any of the Columbus officers who responded were wearing cameras. While some officers in the Ohio capital wore body cameras during a brief pilot program this summer, that trial is over, according to Jacobs.
Columbus police said officers were allegedly called about an armed robbery just after 7:40 p.m. Wednesday. When they arrived, the person who reported being robbed told officers that a group of people — one carrying what appeared to be a gun — demanded money, according to the police.
Officers then saw three people they said matched the descriptions from the reported robbery and approached them. Two ran away, and the officers followed them into an alley and went to take them into custody, police said. At that point, “one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband,” police officials said, and was shot by an officer.
The 13-year-old was brought to a Columbus hospital and pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m. The officer who shot him was identified by the police as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran of the Columbus police force. Jacobs said Mason has been placed on administrative leave for at least a week.
Mason is a “really, really good officer,” Jason Pappas, president of Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, told the Columbus Dispatch. Pappas, who said he went to the shooting scene and spoke with Mason, said that “officers do not have the luxury of knowing if it’s a real gun or not.”
In 2012, Mason was involved in another fatal shooting. Authorities at the time said that he shot and killed a man who police had said was aiming a gun at another person and refused commands to drop the weapon. Police said the following year that Mason acted within the department’s policies.
During the briefing Thursday morning, officials in Columbus, Ohio’s largest city, called for calm and said they would be sharing information with religious leaders and community members. While officials said the investigation was still in its early stages, they defended the officer involved and questioned the 13-year-old’s actions in carrying the BB gun.
“Why is it that a 13-year-old would have nearly an exact replica of a police firearm on him in our neighborhoods?” Ginther said. “An eighth grader, involved in very, very dangerous conduct, in one of our neighborhoods.”
Jacobs described the BB gun as looking “practically identical” to the firearms carried by Columbus police officers. She held up an image of what she said the BB gun looked like, displaying it for reporters gathered at the news conference outside City Hall.
“It turns out to not be a firearm in the sense that it fires real bullets, but as you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you,” she said. Jacobs said that authorities “are talking about a 13-year-old that we believe was involved in an armed robbery,” saying that officers who responded were “ready to deal with an armed suspect.”
Officer statements were still being gathered on Thursday, Jacobs said. Once that investigation is complete, the county prosecutor will take the information to a usually rigged grand jury to decide if any criminal charges will be filed, she said.
Authorities said the other person who was with Tyree, whom they did not identify and who was not injured, was interviewed and released. Police say they are seeking additional suspects in the reported robbery.
The shooting comes amid intense scrutiny nationwide on how officers use deadly force, an issue that prompted protests in Columbus this summer and roiled other Ohio cities in recent years. In addition to Columbus, a city with 850,000 residents, there have been high-profile police shootings in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio’s other biggest cities.
In June, just weeks before deadly shootings by and of police roiled the country, groups gathered at a Columbus courthouse to protest a fatal shooting involving a 23-year-old man. The demonstrators called for independent prosecutors to investigate deadly police shootings.
Groups in Columbus rallied again in July when the issue of violence involving police was pushed back into the national consciousness after officers fatally shot African American men in Baton Rouge and near St. Paul, Minn., and a gunman killed five Dallas police officers.
In Columbus, police shootings are generally deemed to be justified. A review by the Columbus Dispatch found that since 2004, the city’s police have been involved in more than 170 shootings, and nearly all were deemed to be within the department’s policy guidelines.
Tyree’s death in Columbus came almost two years after Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old in Cleveland, was fatally shot while holding a toy gun. (Someone had called 911 at the time to report “a guy with a pistol.” This caller said the gun may have been fake, but the officers who responded were not told that.) Last year, a grand jury declined to indict the Cleveland officers involved. In announcing the decision, Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said that the boy was reaching for the toy in his waistband and described it as “indistinguishable” from a real gun.
“The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy,” McGinty said at the time. “But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime.” Cleveland agreed this year to pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family.
By: Mark Berman