Monday 24 October 2016

Policeman kills black boy (13) who pulled gun

Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio

Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30

Police officers near the scene of the shooting
Police officers near the scene of the shooting

A WHITE police officer has shot dead a 13-year-old black boy who had pulled a BB gun that looked "practically identical" to a police weapon.

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The case has brought comparisons with the 2014 fatal shooting in Cleveland of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation centre.

Columbus police said that the differences in the Wednesday night shooting of Tyree King and the Cleveland case are stark.

"The only thing similar in nature is the age, race and outcome," Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said. "The facts are not similar, and that must be reiterated."

Officers investigating an armed robbery report east of downtown Columbus spotted three males who matched the suspects' descriptions.

Two of the males ran away when officers tried to speak to them.

The police chased the pair into a nearby alley and tried to take them into custody. That's when Tyree pulled out a gun with a laser sight, and one officer fired his weapon, hitting the boy repeatedly, police said.

Tyree died at a children's hospital. Authorities identified the officer who fired as a nine-year veteran of the force named Bryan Mason.

Police records showed Officer Mason in 2012 shot and killed a man who was holding another man at gunpoint. Officers said the armed man had refused orders to drop his weapon.

At a press conference, police chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo of what she called a "replica" of the BB gun Tyree 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."

Officer Mason has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

A lawyer for Tyree's family called for a fair and independent investigation into the boy's death.

Lawyer Sean Walton declined to discuss any previous contact Tyree had with police, but he emphasised Tyree didn't have any violent criminal history.

Tyree played football and was in the young scholars' programme at school, Mr Walton said.

Authorities said it was unclear whether the shooting was caught on surveillance or mobile phone video. Columbus police don't use body cameras.

Democratic Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up as he called for the community to come together to help ensure children remain safe. He questioned why a 13-year-old boy 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," Mr Ginther said. "And a 13-year-old is dead because of our obsession with guns."

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