Tyre King, the 13-year-old shot dead by a veteran officer when he pulled a BB gun during his arrest was being chased by Columbus police as a suspect in an armed robbery of $10.
The teen was shot multiple times by Officer Bryan Mason in the east of the city when he pulled what appeared to be a handgun equipped with a laser sight from his waistband during a confrontation with police on Wednesday, police said.
Officers were investigating an armed robbery report on Wednesday and spotted three males who matched the description of the suspects, authorities said.
Two of them ran away when officers tried to speak with them. The police chased the pair into a nearby alley and tried to take them into custody.
That’s when Tyre pulled out a gun, and Officer Mason fired his weapon, hitting the boy repeatedly, police said.
In a recorded 911 call, the robbery victim calmly indicates that he wasn’t going to make a big deal over $10 but that other witnesses called to report what happened.
Sirens are heard moments later as police search for the suspects. Then an unidentified witness overhears gunfire and tells a dispatcher: ‘He’s shooting him! Oh, my God!’
Tyre, an 8th grader at Linden-McKinley STEM Acedemy, died at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at around 8.22pm – approximately one hoursafter he was shot.
Officer Mason couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday and family members also declined to speak.
At a press conference on Thursday, officers said the BB gun looked ‘practically identical’ to a police weapon.
The Umarex 40XP Blowback BB Pistol retails for $50 and is readily available to buy at stores such as Walmart.
It is not known where King purchased the laser sight.
Because the officer was white and the boy black, the case has brought inevitable comparisons with the 2014 fatal shooting in Cleveland of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Columbus police are early in their investigation but say the differences in the Wednesday night shooting of Tyre King and the Cleveland case are stark.
‘The only thing similar in nature is the age, race and outcome,’ said Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner. ‘The facts are not similar, and that must be reiterated.’
Tyre died at a children’s hospital. Authorities identified the officer who fired as a nine-year veteran of the force named Bryan Mason.
At a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo of what she called a ‘replica’ of the BB gun that Tyre had.
‘Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon,’ she said. ‘As you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you.’
The hashtag #TyreKing was among the most used on Twitter in the United States on Thursday morning, as social media users expressed outrage over the shooting and drew comparisons between King and Tamir Rice.
While angry messages flooded social media, Columbus officials called for calm during an investigation into the death.
‘These are crushing circumstances for everyone,’ said Columbus Councilman Mitchell Brown. ‘Let the process work.’
Mason has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, per department protocol, Jacobs said.
It also emerged on Thursday that Officer Mason shot and killed a man during a police confrontation in 2012.
In December 2012, Mason shot a man who was holding another man at gunpoint. Officers said the armed man refused orders to drop his weapon and was shot.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that investigators concluded Mason acted within policy in that case.
An attorney for Tyre’s family called for a fair and independent investigation into the boy’s death.
Sean Walton declined to discuss any previous interaction Tyre had with police, but he emphasized that Tyre didn’t have any violent criminal history.
He said the family believed that Tyre being involved in an armed robbery would be ‘so out of character’ for him.
Tyre played football and was in the young scholars program at school, Walton said.
The boy also had a slight build and, if anything, was on the small side for his age, the attorney said.
Authorities said it wasn’t clear if the shooting was caught on surveillance or cellphone video.
Columbus police don’t use body cameras.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up 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.’
Neighborhood resident Chris Naderer said he was home at the time and heard someone break fencing in his backyard, then saw an officer chasing two young black men and heard several gunshots.
‘I just think it was bad circumstances that he had a gun,’ Naderer said.
Police reviewing evidence from the scene determined the boy’s firearm was actually a BB gun with an attached laser sight.
The male who had been with Tyre, 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton, was interviewed and released pending further investigation, police said.
They provided no further information about him.
Police said additional suspects were being sought as the shooting and reported robbery remained under investigation.
The police chief said it was too soon to draw comparisons between Tyre’s death and the Tamir Rice case.
There was no chase in Tamir’s case. A caller reported someone pointing a gun at people near a recreation center, and a rookie officer shot Tamir almost immediately after his police cruiser stopped nearby.
The caller had said the person was likely a juvenile and the weapon was probably fake, but the call taker never passed that information to the dispatcher of the responding officers.
In that case, the grand jury concluded that the officer and his partner reasonably believed that it was a real gun and that their lives were in danger, prosecutors said.
It was ‘indisputable’ that the boy was drawing the pistol from his waistband when he was shot, Tim McGinty, Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said at the time.
He said Tamir was trying to either hand the weapon over to police or show them it wasn’t real, but the patrolmen had no way of knowing that.