COURTESY OF TIMOTHY KUCHARSKI/NO Enlarge
CLEVELAND — A 12-year-old boy shot by police after grabbing what turned out to be a replica gun died from his wounds on Sunday, one day after officers responded to a 911 call about someone waving what the caller described as a “probably fake” gun at a playground.
Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said one officer fired twice after the boy pulled the fake weapon — which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the muzzle — from his waistband but had not pointed it at police. The boy did not make any verbal threats, but grabbed the replica handgun after being told to raise his hands, Deputy Chief Tomba said.
“That’s when the officer fired,” he said.
The Cuyahoga County medical examiner identified the boy as Tamir Rice.
An attorney for his family, Timothy Kucharski, said the boy went to the park with friends Saturday afternoon, but he did not know the details of what led to the shooting.
The police department is investigating the shooting.
Both officers who responded, a first-year rookie and a 10-year department veteran, have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the department’s investigation.
The county prosecutor’s office also is investigating.
Mr. Kucharski said he will conduct his own investigation into the shooting and review the police’s investigation to determine “how exactly an innocent young 12-year-old boy could be killed playing at the park.”
“His mother is devastated,” Mr. Kucharski said.
The shooting of the boy, who was African-American, occurred as a grand jury is expected to make a decision soon over whether to charge a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., setting off months of protests.
Mr. Kucharski said he did not know the race of the officer who shot the boy, and the shooting did not appear to have anything to do with race.
The important question, he said, was why the officers did not act with more caution because they were dealing with a child.
“The police have to address these things in the proper context,” he said.
“This is a 12-year-old boy. This is not a grown man.
“I’d think you would handle situations with children differently than you would with an adult. They don’t fully understand everything that is going on.”
Police said the weapon was an “airsoft” type replica that resembled a semi-automatic handgun.
The orange safety indicator had been removed, police said.
A man who called 911 told dispatchers the boy was on a swing and pointing a pistol that was “probably fake” and scaring everyone.
The caller said twice that the gun was “probably fake.”
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said the officers were not told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
The officer called to the playground outside of the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s West Side saw the pistol sitting on a table or bench.
They watched the boy grab it and put it in his waistband, Mr. Follmer said.
Authorities are investigating what information from the call was relayed to the officers, police spokesman Jennifer Ciaccia said.
The police learned the gun was fake after the shooting, Ms. Ciaccia said.
State Rep. Alicia Reece announced Sunday that she will introduce legislation to place restrictions on BB guns, air rifles, and airsoft guns.
While other states have passed laws regulating the sale of imitation or toy guns, there are no laws in Ohio that place restrictions on them, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Federal law requires that toy or imitation firearms be sold with orange tips inserted in the barrels, but those tips can be removed or painted.