A Columbus police officer will receive psychological support counseling and time off after fatally shooting and killing 13-year-old Tyre King, according to the Columbus Division of Police. Following a report of an armed robbery, officer Brian Mason, a nine-year veteran, shot King after he “pulled a gun from his waistband”, Columbus police say. The weapon was later identified to be a BB gun with an attached laser sight, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said at a news conference Thursday morning.
“Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon,” said Jacobs, showing a replica image of that BB gun. “It turns out not to be a firearm, but as you can see; it looks like a firearm that can kill you.”
Earlier this evening, the family released a statement calling for an independent investigation. They retain Walton + Brown, LLC to look into the shooting and death of Tyre King.
In the statement, King’s family attorney Sean Watson wrote that “there are multiple witnesses that we have been made aware of that that do not corroborate at the current narrative.”
Walton encourages the public to not rush to make judgements disputing officers’ accounts.
“I have to make absolute clear, that the ‘facts’ being discussed in the media are not facts at all. We do not know what he did or did not do,” Walton said.
Attorney Chanda Brown said King “was a child who was loved and cherished by his family.” She goes on to say the city should let an independent party investigate the incident to help erase doubt.
“The grief is worsened further by the fact that this death comes at the hands of a man who was sworn to protect the citizens of Columbus,” Brown said.
The family statement described Tyre as a “typical 13-year-old child” who enjoyed a variety of sports. They insist the actions described by police are out of his normal character.
They ask for support from the community and prayers for the family.
Columbus police first arrived to the scene after a 7:42 p.m. call from a man claimed a group of individuals had robbed him at gunpoint. Officers spotted three men that matched the victim’s description. In a police statement, police tried to talk to them, but two of the males ran away.
“Officers followed the males to the alley…and attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled gun from his waistband,” police said. “One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times.”
Area resident Chris Naderer told local media he heard several gunshots. According to the Columbus Post-Dispatch, Naderer “looked outside to see a police officer chasing two young men into an alley behind his home. He said he then heard three to five gunshots from the alley.”
King was immediately rushed to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where he was later pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.
“We oughta be shocked and angry as a community. In the safest big city in America, we have a 13-year-old dead in our city. That’s unacceptable,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
It is unclear whether other footage has been retrieved showing the shooting, but not one of the officers involved were wearing body cameras. Columbus police began testing body cameras last month and the department expected to fully implement the devices by early next year.
“It is a technology we believe can really help continue to improve and increase safety here in Columbus, and that’s why it’s such a high priority for us,” said Mayor Ginther.
“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 reporters late Wednesday. “There’s no winners here.”
King was an eighth grader at Linden-McKinley Stem Academy, a school “focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.” Grief counselors are available.
The city of Columbus has seen 13 police-related shootings this year. Five resulted with a civilian being shot and one ended in the death of an officer.
King’s death comes just two years after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in nearby Cleveland.
Rice, a black sixth-grade student, was shot holding a pellet gun. His death sparked nationwide protests over police brutality and racial bias. In December, a grand jury chose not to indict the two officers involved. In April, the city of Cleveland agreed to a $6 million settlement of a civil rights lawsuit brought by Tamir’s family.
Jacobs said it’s too early to compare the shootings of King and Rice.
“We don’t have enough facts to know anything how this relates to any other shooting, including Tamir Rice’s,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we do an investigation.”
The shooting and robbing are still under investigation. Mayor Ginther is calling for patience and peace while the investigation continues.
“We as a community need to come to grips with the fact, with such easy access to guns, whether they’re firearms or replicas, there’s something wrong in this country,” Ginther said, “and it’s bringing its epidemic to our city streets.”
Evidence will go to a grand jury who will ultimately decide if criminal charges will be presented.
“A 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence,” Ginther added. “It is time for this city and this community to step up to make sure that our children and our neighborhoods are safe.”