Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice has died after being shot by Cleveland police while carrying a replica gun in a playground, AP reports.
Last Saturday afternoon, a 911 caller alleged that the boy had a pistol that was “probably fake,” prompting officers to check out the playground outside a recreation center.
"I don't know if it's real or not," the caller reportedly said. The man also noted that the person was “probably a juvenile” and had been pulling the suspected weapon in and out of his pants.
The officers who arrived on the scene — a first-year rookie and a 10-year department veteran — reportedly told Rice to raise his hands. When Rice reached for his fake gun instead, one officer fired at him twice.
The boy died in a local hospital on Sunday morning.
"Why not Tase him?” Rice’s father, Gregory Henderson, asked Cleveland.com. "[They] shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don't shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body."
According to Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the officers were not informed that the pistol might be fake. Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said on Monday that he was not sure whether the 911 dispatcher shared the caller’s comments.
The replica gun was also missing the orange safety indicator typically located on the muzzle, AP reports. However, it was also noted that Rice did not point the fake gun at the officers or make any verbal threats.
"Our officers at times are required to make critical decisions in a split second," Chief Calvin Williams told AP. "Unfortunately this is one of those times.” The police claim that the video of the shooting clearly shows what happened, but Tomba has not revealed details about the footage.
An official investigation has been launched and the officers have been placed on administrative leave. Timothy Kucharski, the attorney for Rice’s family, also intends to conduct an investigation to find out exactly what occurred that afternoon.
"If in fact we determine that Tamir's rights are violated, we will proceed with civil action against the police," he told BBC.
The tragic incident comes months after the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford, who was fatally shot by police after a 911 caller accused him of brandishing a rifle in a surburban Daytona Wal-Mart store. The suspected weapon turned out to be an air rifle.
In September, a special grand jury determined that the actions of the white officers who killed Crawford, an African American, were justified.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)