COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An officer responding to a reported armed robbery shot and killed a 13-year-old boy when the teen pulled a firearm from his waistband that was later determined to be a BB gun but looked “practically identical” to the weapon that police use, authorities said Thursday.
The shooting happened around nightfall Wednesday in an alley east of downtown Columbus after a short foot chase.
Columbus police said officers responded to a report of an armed robbery involving multiple suspects and were told by the victim that a group of people had approached him and demanded money. The victim said one of them had a gun.
Down the block, officers spotted three males who matched the description of the alleged robbers, and two of them ran away when officers tried to speak with them, police said. Officers followed the pair into a nearby alley and tried to take them into custody, and one of the suspects pulled out a gun, police said. One officer fired, hitting the 13-year-old repeatedly.
That suspect, later identified as Tyree King, was taken to a children’s hospital, where he died. The officers and the other male involved in the encounter weren’t injured.
Authorities identified the officer who shot Tyree as white and a nine-year veteran of the force. They said it wasn’t clear if the shooting had been caught on video.
At a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo of what she called a “replica” of the BB gun that Tyree 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 officer has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigating, per department protocol, Jacobs said.
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 told The Columbus Dispatch he was home at the time and heard someone knock down a gate in his backyard, then saw an officer chasing two young men into the alley and heard several gunshots.
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 Tyree 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 shooting will be reviewed internally, which is required under Columbus Division of Police protocol.