Caught on video: Police kill 12-year-old boy with air gun

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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.

“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.

By Michael Pearson

CNN

23 comments

  • Skip

    I care less what everyone else thinks. Lets think about this:
    1. You are waving AND pointing a handgun that has NO COLOR TIP (If it had a tip, then very much likely the information would have been relayed to the police).
    2. From the looks of the gun, it look as real as it is (texture, everything).
    3. The boy DOESN’T LISTEN to the officer who ordered him to keep his hands in the air. Seriously. This is not Hollywood where the criminal or the hero draws from the waistband.
    4. Of all things- he draws the gun from the waistband- which conceals the gun and does not give the officer a chance to hopefully determine if it is real or not. And of course, with the elements of a concealed gun (which heightens the tension), disobeying an officer, and then draws from the waistband- the officer has less than a second to make a decision whether it is a real gun, if the boy was going to point it at the officer

    Now, all we know is that the boy pulled his gun. We don’t know the details of how he pulled the gun: was it fast, was it slow…we don’t know…except the family and the police know from the video shown to them. I do feel real bad about what happened.

  • teve

    The biggest problem I see, is the stupid fear of guns! Some moron called and reported the kid with the gun, did the kid shoot anyone yet? Nope. Why not check with the recreation center before calling the cops. Where was the parents? Why has this kid not been taught to handle a gun! To respect the gun….not point at people! The person to really blame is the ignorant person that reported the kid.

    • Angel

      So you would prefer the cops to do nothing. The kid removed the piece that showed it was fake, and attempted to pull the gun on the officers. What if it had been real instead of just looking real? I have no problem with guns, or teaching your children to respect them, but while your doing that teach them it isn’t a freaking toy. Teach them that when a cop says drop it, or don’t touch it, that is what you freaking do. The person had every right to report the kid. They also had the right to be scared if they cop couldn’t tell if it was real or not. What hope did that person have? It isn’t like people having been known to bring guns in where they don’t belong. Most of us have the sense to realize if you do something stupid, you are to blame for your actions. It isn’t the fault of the person who called. I am willing to blame the parents for not teaching the kid not to wave a gun around, or to point it at someone if you don’t plan on using it.

    • David Kelder

      See gun, say gun, react quickly. What if it was a real gun and the police qent into the rec center to ask about the person waving it and during that time, someone was shot? People would be asking why the police did not act sooner. BTW If I can paint a red tip on y real gun, I can fool people into thinking it is not real. Moral DON’T TAKE YOUR GUBS TO TOWN. A gun should be drawn only to shot something o r someone.

    • DonOG47

      No. The person to blame is the kid’s parents for not teaching him to not point a toy gun at people, even if so to not remove an orange tip that indicates it is a toy. But even since parenting failed you could blame dispatch for not giving specific information.. Which is that the gun is “probably fake.”

  • annamarie

    Sorry skip but not only was there an orange tip but the caller specifically said it may be fake also that he was a child sitting on a swing set… never reported any yelling, or threatening of any sort that would lead someone to believe the situation was hostile…these police officers need to assess the situation before continuing to fill our sons with bullets…their lives are precious and are to be cherished and protected not wasted and thrown away like worthless trash. It’s blatantly clear these young men are being gunned down for one reason…because they are black and if your black in America your automatically a threat sadly to say not because your threatening but because they want to make you that way… #RIP2ALLMYYOUNGBROTHERS

    • Pay Attention

      What? They straight up show the gun at 0:56 and it has no orange indicator. The female voice-over even says “it was missing its orange safety indicator”. How on earth did you come to the conclusion that it did have it?

    • Rico

      Sorry ANNAMARIE… but learn to read, or at least learn to listen to, and watch, a video. There was NOT an orange tip on the gun and the caller said he WAS pointing it at people. And the officers did assess the situation, they saw a kid reach for an illegally concealed weapon after they told him to put his hands up. If the situation was reversed, and the kid did actually shoot and kill the cops instead, what would your excuse be then? That he was so innocent and precious, and just made a mistake and should be cherished and protected. I agree that it is terrible that this young man was killed, and that killing of any kind is terrible, but serious situations have serious consequences. It is not okay to do illegal things that jeopardize the lives of others. And these young men are being gunned down because they are putting other people at risk, doing illegal things, and are directly/physically harming others, not because they are black.

      And Teve, speaking of ignorance, that was the dumbest and most childish thing I have heard in a while, and you are an idiot for even saying that. Blame the person who was concerned about the safety of others, good idea… But yeah you’re right, next time they caller should wait until the kid starts shooting people before calling the police. And why was this kid not taught how to handle a gun? Maybe because he was 12 and shouldn’t even have access to a gun. It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon in public and it is illegal to have a gun under the age of 18 in the first place.

      In the simplest and most clear understanding of this situation, the kid is at fault for having a weapon, for removing the orange cap, and for not listening to the police. Put yourself in the position of the officer. If you had your weapon drawn and you instructed someone, who has a concealed weapon, to put their hands up, and that person reached for their weapon, would you wait until they fired to see if the gun was real, or would you shoot them without thinking in order to possibly save your own life and the lives of others.

      Before automatically blaming racism and everyone else, except the child who was actually the criminal, think about the seriousness of the situation and what potentially could have happened if the gun was real, or if the kid shot the officers and other people in the park, or if the caller waited until the kid shot people before calling the police. Because I don’t know about you, but if I was the cop, I would have taken the shot, and if I was the caller, I would have called the police as well. Life is precious, and it should be treated that way, which is exactly why the caller and the officer made the decisions they did.

      • topdogg

        Rico ..you are a complete idiot . To suggest a 12 yr old is a criminal for taking the orange tip off of a toy gun is ridiculous.. I don’t know if that situation could’ve been avoided once the KID went in his pants..but it’s completely irresponsible and frankly questions YOUR PERSONAL INTENT for demonizing this young man. HE’S12! Did you think he was so dumb that he didn’t know that you couldn’t shoot a REAL cop with a TOY gun..Did it occur to you that he might have reached for the gun to show to the officers that he was no threat? But to suggest he was a criminal makes you an ***hole!

    • Angel

      I remember a time when parents were smart enough to teach their kids to respect the cops. They also taught children that guns weren’t toys. If this thing could shoot bb’s it could hurt someone. That isn’t a toy. A toy is a gun that is made of plastic and doesn’t have the ability to shoot anything more than foam, rubber darts, water or just make really fake sounding gun noises at someone.

  • Chaille

    “Don’t shoot any of these kids on the playground while I go into the rec center and find out who you are”….. Really? Only a fool would expect that kind of police response. BB and even “toy” guns are training tools not toys. Why did the parents of this child not teach him about gun safety if they allowed him to have one? Good shoot. Tragic event. My prayers to the suspect and his family and to the responding offices as well. I cannot imagine having to live with the knowledge of having killed a tween whether it was a righteous shooting or

  • Khamster

    PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA IT TURNS OUT WE ARE GOING BACK TO THE WILD WILD WEST STAGES AGAIN. WHERE ANYONE CAN SHOOT ANYONE WITH OR WITHOUT A BADGE.

  • Shay

    Talm bout using a taser I’m not walking up on NOBODY that has a gun. He was obviously a threat and the officers did what they had to do. If they would’ve tooken a chance they would’ve died themselves . if u don’t follow directions and it true you have a gun whether its real or fake. You getting yo ass popped. I’m sorry for the parents that has to deal with this but plz educate your children and raise em right. Y do u have a play gun at a park with dozens of ppl? Oh BTW I’m BLACK!

    • topdogg

      Shay I doubt your black..You sound like you watch too much tv..It’s a REALLY sad state the U.S is in when you use a 12 year old to push a personal agenda

  • stephen huck

    Dumb thug cops murder a 12 year old kid for playing with a toy. Look, if you’re too much of a desperate loser that you can’t take a small risk to your life to avoid shooting a CHILD, then you shouldn’t be a cop. This is just murder of a child by a desperate, pathetic, uniformed thug. That thug should be executed, end of story.

  • Sensible Liberal

    This is just ONE of the side-effects of having a strong Second Amendment in the United States.
    Firearm ownership pervades the nation. Illegal firearms are readily available and permeate society.
    Mass shootings are relatively commonplace.
    Middle and lower class economic status in serious decline. This means more unhappy and/or unstable people with easy access to firearms.
    Cops anticipate firearms whenever they encounter unknown persons.

    Result? Lot’s of shootings like this.

    Americans can’t demand unending personal firearm rights on the one hand, but then demand cops do not respond with lethal force on the other hand. If you’re gonna arm practically anyone, the cops are gonna be prepared for it and open fire with the slightest of provocation. If not, then you’re asking cops to willingly wait to be shot before they pull their weapons. You gonna do a job under these circumstances?

    You can’t have it both ways!

    • Teve

      You can have it both ways. Amazing when I went to school. Many of the students had guns in their vehicles. Not one shooting. ever. The guns were not even brought out. the funny thing, you could see the guns in the back windows of the trucks. The guns were never a problem. A gun is a tool, you have to respect the gun, just like you do any other tool. Learn how to use it and respect it. What sensible guns laws have not been tried in cities like New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, L.A. and Detroit. These cities have the highest crime rates and shootings in the country, and yet some of the strictest gun laws. The Gun laws in Mexico work really well. The cartels, politicians and police are the only people there who can defend themselves in Mexico. Do not think the Government would not kick your door in? ask the folks in Waco or the little Cuban boy that had their doors kicked in and folks killed. The blood of the innocents is on the hands of the people who write and support the gun laws that take the guns away from the LAW ABIDING citizens. If you do not want a gun, fine, do not get one, just leave mine alone. I will determine what gun I want, not some politician or useful idiot. I pray, like the fire extinguisher in the kitchen I never have to use my gun to defend my family. But if needed it is there. Unlike politicians and rich movie stars, I do not have my own private security force, my family knows they have protection waiting for the police to arrive!

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