A 12-year-old boy shot by police after apparently grabbing what turned out to be a pellet gun died from his wounds on Sunday.
Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said on Sunday that one officer fired twice after the boy pulled the weapon – which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the muzzle – from his waistband but had not pointed it at police.
The boy did not make any verbal threats but grabbed the replica handgun after being told to raise his hands, Tomba said. “That’s when the officer fired,” he said.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner identified the boy as Tamir Rice. An attorney for his family, Timothy Kucharski, said the boy went to the park with friends on Saturday afternoon, but he did not know the details of what led to the shooting.
“I don’t want to make a rush to judgment,” he said.
The police department is investigating the shooting and both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. The county prosecutor’s office is also investigating.
Kucharski said he wanted to talk to witnesses himself and get more facts. “We’re ultimately going to find out what happened,” he said.
Police said the weapon was an “airsoft” type replica gun that resembled a semi-automatic handgun. The orange safety indicator had been removed, police said.
A man who called police told emergency dispatchers before police arrived that the boy was on a swing set and pointing a pistol that was “probably fake” and scaring everyone.
The caller said the boy was pulling the gun in and out of his pants. “I don’t know if it’s real or not,” the caller said.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said the officers were not told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
Cleveland police have been under increased scrutiny during the last few years. The US Justice Department has been conducting an investigation of their pursuit and use of force practices.
Federal officials said in March 2013 that their investigation would go beyond a high-profile car chase that ended with officers firing 137 shots and two deaths.
US town of Ferguson erupted in protest after a black unarmed youth was shot dead by a policeman in August. A grand jury is expected to decide on whether to bring charges against a white police officer for fatally shooting the teenager.