Police: Video of officer shooting boy is ‘clear’
CLEVELAND (AP) — An officer was less than 10 feet (3 meters) away when he fatally shot a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun near a playground, and video of the shooting is clear about what happened, police said Monday.
The boy was confronted Saturday by officers responding to an emergency call about a male who appeared to be pulling a gun in and out of his pants.
The caller said the gun was “probably fake,” then added, “I don’t know if it’s real or not.” Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said Monday that he didn’t know whether a dispatcher shared that information with responding officers.
The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association has said the officers weren’t told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
Police say Tamir Rice, who died Sunday, had an “airsoft” gun that appeared indistinguishable from a real firearm. Airsoft guns fire spherical plastic pellets and have orange tips to show they aren’t real firearms, but police said the one the boy had didn’t have the bright safety indicator.
Authorities said the boy was told to raise his hands and was shot when he pulled the pellet gun from his waistband, though he hadn’t pointed it at police or made verbal threats.
Tomba said surveillance video of the shooting is “very clear” about what occurred, but he wouldn’t discuss details of what it shows.
People representing the boy’s family viewed the video Monday, but police didn’t release it publicly because it is considered evidence and because they want to be sensitive to the family, the community and the officer, who is distraught, officials said.
The shooting has led to an investigation of the officer’s use of force. It also contributed to a state lawmaker’s plan to propose legislation requiring all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips.
The legislator also cites the death of 22-year-old John Crawford III, who was fatally shot by police Aug. 5 after a man called police to report that Crawford was carrying a gun in a Wal-Mart store in suburban Dayton, Ohio. Police said they believed the air rifle Crawford had picked up was a real rifle and that he didn’t respond to commands to drop it.
Once the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury to decide whether any criminal charges should be brought, county Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said.
The two officers involved in the shooting were put on administrative leave under standard procedure. Police haven’t publicly identified them.
At least 100 people gathered near a recreation center at the playground Monday night to show support for the boy’s family. Some demonstrators carried signs that read “Danger Police in Area” and “Police Terror: This Stops Today.” They chanted, “Justice for Tamir!”
“We will not accept any excuse why this young man was shot down unjustly,” said Art McKoy, a Cleveland community activist at the demonstration.
The Associated Press left a message for the attorney, Timothy Kucharski, on Monday. He said previously that Tamir went to the park with friends Saturday afternoon, but he didn’t know the details of what led to the shooting and wanted to get more facts and talk to witnesses himself.
Franko reported from Columbus, Ohio.