By Jaweed Kaleem
A Columbus, Ohio, police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who pulled a BB gun from his waistband following a report of an armed robbery on Wednesday night, according to authorities. The gun was "practically identical" to the weapons police use, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said.
The boy, Tyree King, died at Nationwide Children's Hospital about half an hour after being shot several times by the officer in an alley in the the city's Olde Towne East neighborhood.
King is black. The officer who shot him, Bryan Mason, is white. He has been on the force for nine years and has been placed on administrative leave, city officials told reporters Thursday.
The shooting comes as officers around the nation have been under scrutiny for deadly shootings of black Americans. Nearly two years ago, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy holding a replica pellet gun.
Police responding to a robbery report Wednesday night arrived at the scene at about 7:40. A man told officers that a group, including one person with a gun, had demanded money from him. He said he gave them what "money he had," according to police, and kept walking down the street.
Police say they found three people nearby who matched the descriptions the man gave them, two of whom ran away and were chased into an alley. That's when one of the people, later identified as King, pulled a gun from his waistband and an officer shot him several times, police said.
Crime scene investigators later determined that the weapon King had was a BB gun, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a Columbus police spokesman.
A second person was arrested without injury and later released, police said. Police did not say what happened to the third person who ran; they are looking for additional suspects. The case is being reviewed internally, standard procedure for Columbus police.
King was in the eighth grade at Linden STEM Academy, according to reports.
Police were not wearing body cameras at the time of the incident. The city began testing body cameras last month among a group of 30 officers, and officials have said they want to have the camera program fully running by the end of the year.
"You have to feel for the family in this and you also have to think about what the officer's going through," Weiner said. "There's no winners here."
The case is being compared to that of Rice, who police shot dead in November 2014 after a 911 caller reported seeing "a guy with pistol" that was "probably a fake" pointing it around at a city park. The caller also said the person was "probably a juvenile." Officers responding to the call were not aware that the caller suggested the gun may not be real, and heard a description of a "male black sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people."
Last year, a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in Rice's shooting. At the time, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced the decision by saying that Rice had reached for the gun, which he called "indistinguishable" from a real gun.
Cleveland this year settled a $6-million civil suit with Rice's family over the death.
Jacobs, the Columbus police chief, said Thursday that it's too soon to draw comparisons to Rice's death.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up Thursday as he called for the community to come together to help ensure children remain safe. He 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," Ginther said. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(c)2016 the Los Angeles Times