Tuesday 27 September 2016

Teenager shot dead by police 'had BB gun and ran from officers'

Published 16/09/2016 | 18:26

Members of Tyre King's family hold hands while listening to prayer during a vigil (AP)
Members of Tyre King's family hold hands while listening to prayer during a vigil (AP)

The 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by a policeman investigating a reported armed robbery in the US had a real-looking BB gun and ran from police, a friend who was with him has said.

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Tyre King was shot on Wednesday night in Ohio after witnesses reported a group of people had robbed a man of 10 US dollars (£7.60).

The 19-year-old friend, Demetrius Braxton, told The Columbus Dispatch that Tyre wanted to rob someone for money. He said he had run away with him and was with him when the shooting occurred.

Mr Braxton said police told them to get down. He said they did but Tyre got up and ran and was shot, the paper reported.

Mr Braxton has been interviewed by police but not charged.

A spokesman for Columbus police said the force will not comment on how Mr Braxton's comments compare with the officers' accounts.

The shooting will be investigated thoroughly, authorities said, to determine if charges are warranted. Evidence will automatically be presented to a grand jury to determine whether the officer's actions were justified.

The coroner, Dr Anahi Ortiz, said Tyre's post-mortem examination was complete but she would not yet release details, including where he was shot.

She said the official manner of death is pending, with a final report not expected for several weeks.

Relatives are still grieving and working on the funeral arrangements, Sean Walton, an attorney for the family of Tyre, said. He said he wants people with information in the case to come forward.

"We just have many different witness accounts that are contradictory to the police officer's version of events," Mr Walton said. "What is currently out there might not be true."

Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up as he asked the community to come together and 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," he said on Thursday. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."

Dozens attended a vigil that night near the scene of the shooting, including members of Tyre King's youth football team. Some carried signs calling for justice for Tyre, while candles spelled out "RIP Tyre King".

The boy's family called for an investigation conducted "in a manner that ensures fairness and truth," and said people should not rush to judgment about Tyre's activities that night.

Police and city authorities also promised a full investigation, while rejecting comparisons to the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Officers investigating the robbery report east of downtown Columbus spotted three males who matched the description of the suspects, authorities said. Two of the males ran away when officers tried to speak with them.

The police chased the pair into an alley and tried to take them into custody. Tyre pulled out a gun with a laser sight, and an officer fired, hitting the boy multiple times, police said. Tyre later died in hospital.

The officer was identified as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran of the force. Police records show that in 2012 he shot and killed a man who was holding another person at gunpoint. The Columbus Dispatch said investigators cleared him.

In keeping with department policy, Mr Mason has been placed on leave while Tyre's shooting is investigated. A call to the head of the police union representing him was not immediately returned.

A police union leader said the officer is a well-respected policeman who did what he had to do in that circumstance.

Jason Pappas, the president of the police union representing Mr Mason, said it is a situation no officer wants to encounter.

Mr Walton has called for an independent investigation.

He would not discuss any previous dealings Tyre had with police but said the boy had no violent criminal history. He said the family believes Tyre's involvement in an armed robbery would be "out of character".

Tyre played several sports, including football, and was in the young scholars program at school, he said. He had a slight build and, if anything, was on the small side for his age, the lawyer said.

In Tamir's case, a 911 caller reported someone pointing a gun at people near a recreation center. A rookie officer shot the boy almost immediately after pulling up in his car. The officer and his partner were cleared of wrongdoing.

The 911 caller had said the person with the gun was probably a juvenile and the weapon was probably fake, but that information was never passed on to the officers.

AP

Press Association

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