Police in Columbus, OH shot and killed a 13-year-old black boy on Wednesday night. Officers claimed that the boy reached for a weapon, which later turned out to be a BB gun.
The boy, Tyree King, was shot at 7:45 PM. He was dead by 8:30 PM.
Police told the Columbus Dispatch that the shooting occurred during a response to an armed robbery report in Columbus's Olde Towne East neighborhood. The unidentified robbery victim allegedly told police he was approached by several young men demanding money and that one of them had a gun.
A police statement stated officers found three "males" nearby matching the robbery victims description. They did not provide information as to the suspect's age or race. Two of the suspects, one of whom was the 13-year-old King, fled and police gave chase.
The police statement went on to state an officer opened fire on King after he "pulled a gun from his waistband." Investigators at the crime scene later determined the object King was handling was actually a BB gun with a laser sight attached to it.
Chris Naderer, who lives nearby, told the Dispatch he saw one of the officers chasing the suspects in an alley behind his home. He then heard three to five gunshots from the alley.
King died at Nationwide Children’s Hospital later that evening.
While information is still being released, King's death appears to have several parallels to another Ohio police shooting, during which 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by police in Cleveland while playing with a toy gun in a park. Rice's death caused national outrage, although prosecutors did not pursue charges against the officers involved, calling the shooting "a perfect storm of human error." Similar comments are already appearing in the King case.
"You have to feel for the family in this and you also have to think about what the officer's going through," Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner told local TV station NBC 4. "There's no winners here."
At a press conference on Thursday, Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs identified officer Bryan Mason as the man responsible for King’s death. A nine-year veteran of the police force, Mason will be placed on leave as an investigation into the shooting is carried out. A police spokesperson confirmed to CNN that Mason had previously shot and killed an armed suspect while responding to a 911 call in 2012.
Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther issued a statement on the shooting, saying, "Why is it that a 13-year-old would have nearly an exact replica of a police firearm on him in our neighborhoods — an eighth-grader involved in very, very dangerous conduct in one of our neighborhoods? A 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns.”
According to WCMH, King’s family described him as an active, athletic 8th grader at Linden STEM Academy, where grief counselors were on hand Thursday to help community members.
The family has reportedly called for an independent investigation into their son’s death, and hired the civil rights firm of Walton + Brown, LLP. In a statement, attorney Sean Walton said:
The family of Tyre King asks for support from their community as they seek answers in this tragic killing. Please do not rush to judgment. We also have to remind everyone that the “facts” being discussed in the media are not facts at all. We do not know what he did or did not do. There are allegations that have been made regarding his actions, and those allegations cannot be taken as factual until a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place. Please keep that in mind as we discuss the killing of this 13-year-old child. There are multiple witnesses that we have been made aware of that do not corroborate the current narrative. Please keep the family in your prayers and understand that until we have answers we must continue to call for transparency and accountability not only in all police involved killings, but especially in the case of this 13-year-old boy.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.