Camera captured Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old, department says

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(CNN) — Cleveland authorities have surveillance video showing the weekend shooting by police of a 12-year-old boy who was brandishing an ultrarealistic air gun, a department spokesman said Monday.

Tamir Rice died Saturday after a witness called 911 to report someone pointing a weapon — “probably fake” — at people outside a city recreation center.

A police officer responding to the call shot the boy when he pulled the weapon from his waistband, according to police. He later died at a Cleveland hospital.

The video is not currently being released to the public, Sgt. Ali Pillow told CNN.

It’s likely to come up, however, at a Monday morning press conference called by police to discuss the investigation into Tamir’s death.

The incident comes as the nation nervously awaits a grand jury decision on whether to charge the police officer who killed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

The attorney for the family of the Cleveland youngster, who also was black, downplayed any possible racial connotations to the shooting. Police have not disclosed the race of the officer who shot Tamir.

“This is not a black and white issue. This is a right and wrong issue,” attorney Tim Kucharski said.

The incident began when police were summoned to a city recreation center by a 911 caller who said someone — possibly a juvenile — was pointing a gun at people.

Cleveland, OH A Cleveland police officer responding to a call about a person with a gun fatally wounded a 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be an air gun that looked very much like a real firearm, police said early Sunday.

Cleveland, OH A Cleveland police officer responding to a call about a person with a gun fatally wounded a 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be an air gun that looked very much like a real firearm, police said early Sunday.

“There’s a guy in there with a pistol, you know, it’s probably fake, but he’s like pointing it at everybody,” the caller said.

“He’s sitting on a swing right now, but he’s pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people,” the caller said. “He’s probably a juvenile, you know?”

When the two officers arrived, the boy did not point the weapon at them or otherwise threaten them, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba of the Cleveland Division of Police told reporters early Sunday.

But he did reach for the weapon, Tomba said.

“The officers ordered him to stop and to show his hands and he went into his waistband and pulled out the weapon,” he said.

Tamir died early Sunday at MetroHealth Medical Center following surgery, according to the hospital and the family’s attorney.

Tomba showed reporters the weapon the boy was said to be reaching for — a large, black BB- or pellet-type replica gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol. An orange tip indicating the gun was not a real firearm had been removed, police said.

It wasn’t clear if officers had been told the weapon was not a firearm, Pillow told CNN on Sunday.

Both officers have been placed on leave, police said.

The head of the police union said the officers followed protocols.

“As they approached the male, they are screaming at him, ‘Put your hands up, put your hands up’ — they don’t want his hands to go anywhere down by the waistband,” Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association President Jeff Follmer told CNN affiliate WJW.

“I can tell you the officer that fired had no clue that he was 12, he just thought it was an older male. There was more concentration on his hands because we are taught in the academy that hands will kill you,” Follmer told the station.

Residents reacted angrily.

“It wasn’t a dog. It was a child. You didn’t give him a chance. You just killed him,” one man told CNN affiliate WEWS.

Someone claiming to represent the online activist group Anonymous claimed in a YouTube video to have taken down the city’s website, blaming the shooting on what the speaker said was “an overzealous rookie officer” who resorted too quickly to lethal force.

“Officers are equipped with many nonlethal options such as Taser guns,” the speaker said. “Why did he not use a Taser on this child? Shooting him in cold blood was not necessary with these nonlethal options available.”

However, Follmer said officers had no way to know the weapon wasn’t a real firearm.

“You feel bad, after the fact, that it was a 12-year-old,” he said. “Nobody wants to shoot a 12-year-old, especially when they are holding a fake gun. But that’s not the perception the officers had at that time.”

Police shootings of African-Americans, particularly young men, have been under rising scrutiny in recent months following the shooting of Brown by a white officer following a brief confrontation in Ferguson.

A grand jury there is expected to soon make a decision whether Officer Darren Wilson should face criminal charges in that incident, which resulted in widespread protests over police violence against African-Americans.

6 comments

  • PH

    Please put your hands up. Officer repeats: Please put your hands up. Remove your hands from your pockets. Why is that so hard to understand to just follow what an officer tells you? I don’t get it.

  • findingfaithdivine

    Reblogged this on Candid Cupcakes and commented:
    I fully support the men & women in uniform, regardless of branch; however, has anyone else noticed the increase in accidental shootings of civilians lately? To be fair, the fault does not lie entirely on the officers but rather on the need for violent “toys” as in this instance, among other issues.

  • Jane doe

    Why does a 12 year old have an air soft gun to start with? In our state you have to be 16 to be able to purchase one.
    He could have gotten it from a friend or sibling, whatever. The fact is he should never had had it to start with and he should have listened to the officers.
    They did as they were trained to protect other citizens and themselves.
    Yes, it is a tragedy but children need to be supervised and taught to respect authority

    • Tia Green

      Respect authority or DIE! Especially in front of cops. Remember to tell your children not to move too fast or they’ll feel threatened and SHOOT YOU. And don’t resist even when they are choking you they’ll let you breathe eventually. And don’t run they’ll SHOOT YOU DOWN like a dog cops don’t chase you anymore now that obesity is on the rise. And most importantly remember to tell you kid that no matter how innocent they are once a cop pulls up their life is no longer in their hands. Whether they live or die depends on that cop’s mood and how he/she perceives your kids actions. Good luck explaining why cops are feared instead of respected to your kid.

  • Josh

    I agree…If you don’t comply with a law enforcement officers requests to put your hand up or remove your hands from your pockets, you should expect to be shot. It’s unfortunate.

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