DéJà Vu: Cops Just Gunned down 13-Year-Old Boy Carrying a BB Gun in Ohio
September 15, 2016 | Alice Salles
(ANTIMEDIA) An encounter Wednesday evening between an 8th grader at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy and a police officer in East Columbus, Ohio, turned deadly. According to official police reports, the teen’s death might not have been justified.
Local police responded to a report of an armed robbery at about 7:45 pm in the area of S.18th St. and E. Capital Street. When approached by officials, the victim told them “a group approached him with a gun and demanded money.”
As officers looked for suspects matching the victim’s description, they spotted three males near a nearby house. Once they were approached, two of the suspects ran away. As officers ran after them, thirteen-year-old Tyree King pulled out what looked “like a firearm that could kill you,” Columbus’ police chief Kim Jacobs said.
“Officers followed the males to the alley … and attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband. One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times.“
The teen allegedly pulled the item from his waistband, prompting one officer to “[shoot] and [strike] the suspect several times.” Upon further investigation, officials concluded the weapon the teen had in his possession was a BB gun.
“It turns out to not be a firearm in the sense that it fires real bullets,” Chief Jacobs said, “but as you can see it looks like a firearm that could kill you.”
One of the other suspects who fled on foot, Demetrius Braxton, 19, talked to The Columbus Dispatch after the incident, claiming King wanted to rob somebody for money prior to the shooting. He added:
“I was in the situation, … We robbed somebody, the people I was with.”
Once the police initiated the chase, Braxton said, he and King heeded the officers’ orders to stop. But all of a sudden, King got up and ran away.
“When he ran, the cops shot him,” he told the newspaper. At least “four or five” times. “I didn’t think a cop would shoot. Why didn’t they Tase him?”
But once the news broke, the police union rushed to the officer’s defense.
According to Jason Pappas, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, “[o]fficers do not have the luxury of knowing if it’s a real gun or not, … So two young men who were suspects in this armed robbery separated and ran. One of them was ordered to show his hands and go to the ground, and he complied.”
Promising to investigate the incident in full, Chief Jacobs added she wouldn’t allow an untrustworthy officer “out on the street to perform their job.”
“We want all the right answers, not quick answers,” she added.
As the news broke and more outlets covered the incident, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther told the press that “[w]e want to be open and transparent with the public and the community, but we must make sure we have good information that can be documented and substantiated. It is absolutely critical that we get this right.”
“There is something wrong in this country, and it is bringing its epidemic to our city streets, … And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence.”
Today, the official Columbus, Ohio, police Twitter account published a tweet claiming “[w]e’ve had a few cases this week of teens shooting guns.” In the official Facebook post linked in the tweet, Columbus police explained that a Columbus church was vandalized, “[b]asketball backboards shot out. Pastor LaMarr says today that 2 teens with bb guns came forward about his [sic] crime. Last night a 13-year-old, Tyre King, armed with a gun lost his life. It too was a bb gun.”
While the Tweet mentions cases of “teens shooting guns,” the post on Facebook does not indicate any of the teens carrying BB guns had shot at people or property.
As the Columbus police investigate, Chief Jacobs says she will refrain from commenting on details, preferring to wait until more facts are gathered.
Unless more is unearthed in the investigation, it’s hard to see how the Columbus, Ohio police department will be able to justify the killing of the 13-year-old based on his having a BB gun. Though he may have been guilty of a crime, as Braxton said, it’s unclear why a taser was not deployed.
Until more is revealed, many will continue to compare this killing to the killing of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by Cleveland police officers over a BB gun.