The shooting of 13-year-old Tyre King by a white police officer is raising questions about the behavior of the police once again, but details are emerging which appear to back up what police have said about the case. The Associated Press reports:
The 13-year-old Ohio boy who was fatally shot by a policeman investigating a reported armed robbery had a real-looking BB gun and ran from police, said a friend who was with him.
Tyre King was shot Wednesday night after witnesses reported a group of people had robbed a man of $10.
The 19-year-old friend, Demetrius Braxton, told The Columbus Dispatch that King wanted to rob someone for money. He said he had run away with Tyre and was with him when the shooting occurred.
Braxton said police told them to get down. He says they did, but then Tyre got up and ran and was shot, the paper reported Friday.
As recently as yesterday a spokesperson for the People’s Justice Project was telling local reporters the story about a robbery was just an allegation by the police. She then goes on to say, “execution is not the answer to a robbery….”
Granted, “execution” is not the answer to a robbery but what if the robber is chased by a police officer and then pulls out a BB gun that is indistinguishable from a real pistol?
On that point, the Columbus Dispatch published the 911 call which led police to the scene. A few points worth noting about this. First, a black couple who witnessed the robbery apparently made the call to 911. The woman who is the first to speak to the dispatcher says, “This man just had a gun on this white dude on the street.” There is no indication she believed it was anything but a real gun.
Second, a minute into the call they put the robbery victim on the phone. He tells the dispatcher “I’m not going to mess with it over ten dollars.” He describes what the suspect was wearing and then adds, “It was like a Ruger, like 1911 style pistol.” Clearly the victim of the robbery didn’t know it was a BB gun despite seeing it up close.
Third, another witness to the robbery gets on the phone and says, “Do we have to stand here because I’m about to miss my bus and she got like…it’s terrible we don’t even know which way to go cause it’s a bunch of them and they got guns.” Again, this woman thinks the gun she saw was real and she’s eager to get out of the area. “How many people have guns?” the dispatcher asks. The woman replies, “We seen the one with the gun but the other ones was standing behind him holding their hands too like they had guns on them.” She claims there were “seven or eight of them.” That’s more than the three people police saw moments later when they arrived.
Here’s the call:
Police claim Tyre King pulled the gun from his waistband and that’s what prompted officer Bryan Mason to respond by shooting him. Police will need to try to confirm that through witnesses, but assuming for the moment the police version of events is accurate it’s pretty hard to argue Officer Mason should have hesitated after King pulled a gun that had already fooled three other people that night.