CLEVELAND — A Cleveland officer was less than 10 feet away when he fatally shot a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun near a playground, and video of the shooting is clear about what happened, police said Monday.
The boy was confronted Saturday by officers responding to a 911 call about a male who appeared to be pulling a gun in and out of his pants.
The 911 caller said the gun was “probably fake,” then added, “I don’t know if it’s real or not.” Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said that he didn’t know whether a dispatcher shared that information with responding officers.
The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association has said the officers weren’t told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
Police say Tamir Rice, who died Sunday, had an “airsoft” gun that appeared indistinguishable from a real firearm. Airsoft guns fire spherical plastic pellets and have orange tips to show they aren’t real firearms, but police said the one the boy had didn’t have the bright safety indicator.
Authorities said the boy was told to raise his hands and was shot when he pulled the pellet gun from his waistband, though he hadn’t pointed it at police or made verbal threats.
“Our officers at times are required to make critical decisions in a split second,” Chief Calvin Williams said. “Unfortunately, this is one of those times.”
Tomba said surveillance video of the shooting is “very clear” about what occurred, but he wouldn’t discuss details of what it shows.
People representing the boy’s family viewed the video Monday, but police didn’t release it publicly because it is considered to be evidence and because they want to be sensitive to the family, the community and the officer, who is distraught, officials said.
The shooting has led to an investigation of the officer’s use of force. It contributed to a state lawmaker’s plan to propose legislation requiring all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips.
Once the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury to decide whether any criminal charges should be brought, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said.
The two officers involved in the shooting were put on administrative leave under standard procedure. Police haven’t publicly identified them.
At least 100 people gathered near a recreation center at the playground Monday night to show support for the boy’s family.
“We will not accept any excuse why this young man was shot down unjustly,” said Art McKoy, a Cleveland community activist at the demonstration.
Candles and teddy bears were left at a gazebo near the playground.