Another Ferguson? 12-year-old fatally shot by Cleveland police

by Christian Examiner, |
Tamir E. Rice, 12, was shot to death at a Cleveland park by police on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. | Family photo

CLEVELAND — Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old from Cleveland was fatally shot Saturday while wielding a BB gun that fired plastic pellets. Police approached the child after a dispatcher took a call that a man was waving around a weapon that was "probably fake." When Rice went to pull the replica out of his waistband, the officers fired.

Rice was at the Cudell Recreation Center with his sister and friend when the shooting occurred. The airsoft replica handgun that he was playing with usually comes with an orange safety tip, but it had been removed, CNN reported.

There's "a guy with a pistol, and it's probably fake ... but he's pointing it at everybody," a caller told 911. "I don't know if it's real or not." Jeff Folmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told the Associated Press the two officers who responded were not informed the pistol could have been fake.

When the officers arrived on scene, they approached Rice and told him to put his hands up. He did not comply, but instead pulled the replica gun out of his waistband. Reports state he did not point the BB gun at the officers or make any verbal threats.

"That's when the officer fired," Deputy Chief Ed Tomba told reporters. Rice was hit two times in the chest, and from there he was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center.

The 12-year-old died Sunday morning.

Now the boy's father, Gregory Henderson, is asking why non-lethal means were not used.

"Why not taze him? You 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," he told The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"He had his whole life ahead (of him)," Henderson said to WKYC. "To be 12 years old, he doesn't know what he's doing. Police they know what they're doing."

Authorities said officers are trained not to draw their weapons unless threatened, and if they shoot, shoot to kill.

"We're not trained to shoot people in the leg. If we pull that trigger, we feel our lives are in danger," Folmer said.

Rice's family has hired attorney Timothy Kucharski, who said they will "find out what happened." The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place. Evidence will be given to a grand jury to find out if lethal force was justified. The race of the officer who fired the fatal shots has not been released.