CLEVELAND (AP) — The fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Tyre King by a Columbus police officer Wednesday has drawn comparisons to the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014. Both boys were black and both had replica firearms tucked in their waistbands when they were shot. The officers who shot them are white. There also are differences surrounding the two shootings, the children, and the officers. Here are some highlights:
Details are just beginning to emerge about Tyre’s life. Family members and others have described him as a well-liked and thoughtful child who loved sports. They say he spent a great deal of time at a neighborhood recreation center playing basketball. They also describe Tyre as a teen who was small for his age. And relatives say he was a good student in the eighth grade at a middle school in Columbus that emphasizes science and technology. He had recently moved in with his father after living with his grandmother, according to attorneys for the boy’s family.
At 5 feet 7 and nearly 200 pounds, Tamir was much bigger than an average 12-year-old but was described as a carefree child who sometimes acted younger than his age. Police officers who responded to the shooting were surprised to learn he was only 12. Tamir was in the sixth grade. He lived with his mother and teenage sister.
THE REPLICA GUNS
Columbus police say Tyre was carrying a BB gun that is difficult to distinguish from a .40-caliber Ruger handgun carried by police. Tamir had an Airsoft gun that was a replica of the .45-caliber Colt 1911 sidearm used by the military for decades.
In Tyre’s case, a caller reported he’d been robbed of $10 by a group of people and that someone in the group had a gun. In Tamir’s case, a caller told a 911 operator that he was scared because a “guy” was waiving a gun and pointing it at people. The caller also said that the person might be a juvenile and the gun might not be real, but that information was never passed on to the officers.
Columbus police chased after Tyre and two other males after responding to the report. The chase continued into an alley, where officer Bryan Mason said he shot Tyre when the teen began pulling a gun from his waistband. There’s no known video of the shooting. Columbus police don’t yet have body cameras.
The killing of Tamir is one of the most documented and scrutinized police shootings in U.S. history. Grainy footage from a surveillance video shows Tamir standing up from a concrete picnic table beneath a now iconic gazebo and being shot by rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann within two seconds of a cruiser skidding to a stop on a slippery sidewalk less than 5 feet away. The video shows Tamir putting a hand on the Airsoft gun tucked in his waistband when he is shot.
Mason is a nine-year veteran of the Columbus police department who’s been described by a union official as well-liked and respected. Mason fatally shot a man in 2012 who police say was pointing a gun at someone and refused to drop the weapon. Mason was cleared in that shooting, as well as non-fatal shootings in 2010 and 2013. He has been placed on administrative leave in Tyre’s shooting, a standard practice after police shootings.
Numerous people raised questions about why Loehmann was a police officer, especially in a violence-prone city like Cleveland. He was dismissed by a suburban department at the end of his six-month probationary period after a supervisor concluded he was unfit to serve. In Tamir’s shooting, a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann and training officer Frank Garmback on criminal charges. Both remain on desk duty. City officials haven’t said whether the officers will be disciplined administratively.
This story has been corrected to update that Tyre had recently moved in with his father after living with his grandmother.