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Inquiry after boy (12) with a fake gun is shot dead in US

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Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on the streets for another night demanding that the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown be tried (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on the streets for another night demanding that the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown be tried (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

REUTERS

Tamir Rice - the 12 year-old boy carrying a replica gun was shot dead by a police officer in the US

Tamir Rice - the 12 year-old boy carrying a replica gun was shot dead by a police officer in the US

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Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on the streets for another night demanding that the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown be tried (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

A 12 year-old boy carrying a replica gun has been shot dead by a police officer in the US, raising fresh questions about the way America deals with violent crime.

The boy, Tamir Rice, was holding an air pistol - or BB gun - when he was challenged by a police officer and then shot at least once in the stomach on Saturday.

A lawyer for the family said the boy died early on Sunday morning.

Samaria Rice, the boy's mother, told a local TV station that her son had gone to a recreation centre across the street from their home in Cleveland with friends and his older sister.

Police officers said they were investigating the circumstances of the shooting. They said they were responding to an emergency call, which described a male brandishing a weapon.

According to a recording, the caller expressed doubts that the gun was real. "There's a guy in here with a pistol," he said. "It's probably fake, but he's like pointing it at everybody."

When police arrived, a group of people were sitting around a table under a gazebo next to a car park. Jeff Follmer, Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association president, said the responding officers were not made aware the caller had described the gun "as probably fake".

"Besides we have to assume every gun is real," he said. "When we don't, that's the day we don't go home."

Ed Tomba, deputy Cleveland police chief, said the weapon lacked the orange safety indicator usually displayed on the muzzle of replica guns.

The boy did not make any verbal threats toward the officer or point the gun, but reached into his waistband and grabbed it after being told to raise his hands, said Mr Tomba.

"That's when the officer fired," he said. The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

The death comes as the US awaits the outcome of a grand jury investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Riots erupted in August after Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead in broad daylight by a white policeman.

Fresh trouble is expected if the grand jury decides there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the officer, Darren Wilson.

Schools were closed, barricades erected and stores boarded up yesterday in the tense St. Louis suburb .

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the Rice family said it would be carrying out its own investigation into what happened.

The BBC has reported that an official investigation is under way.

Tamir Rice's father, Gregory Henderson, said that police should have used a stun gun - or Taser - to subdue his son rather than shoot him.

"Why not Tase him?" he said. "[They] shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don't shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body," he said.

Mr Henderson said that Tamir was a "respectful young man" who "minded his elders", and he that it was a mystery to him why son, who was reported to be tall for his age, allegedly did not follow police orders.

There have been calls for tighter controls on fake guns, with one local lawmaker - Alicia Reece - saying she intends to introduce legislation that would require fake guns sold in Ohio to be brightly coloured.

The Rice family's lawyer, Timothy Kucharski, told the BBC that he would be conducting an investigation, in "parallel" to the police, in order to establish exactly what happened.

"If, in fact, we determine that Tamir's rights are violated, we will proceed with civil action against the police," he said.

Cleveland's police force has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, most notably over a high-profile car chase in 2012 that ended with two deaths and officers firing 137 shots.

Yesterday hacker collective Anonymous said it had forced Cleveland's city website offline in response to the shooting.

City spokesman Daniel Ball confirmed the site was down and said staff were adding extra security measures before restoring the website. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent