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Police in Columbus, Ohio, were investigating how a 13-year-old boy wanted for questioning Wednesday night in an armed robbery ended up fatally shot by an officer.
The child — later identified by Columbus police as Tyre King — had "pulled a gun from his waistband" when officers attempted to take him and another male into custody, the Columbus Division of Police said in a statement. As the encounter unfolded, an officer shot King "multiple times."
The weapon recovered from the scene was determined to be a BB gun with an attached laser sight, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said at a news conference Thursday morning. She showed a replica image of that BB gun.
"Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon," said Jacobs, adding, "It turns out not to be a firearm, but as you can see, it looks like a firearm that can kill you."
Police were first called to a report of a group of people — including one armed with a gun — demanding money at 7:42 p.m. ET.
"This man just had a gun on this white dude on the street!" a caller told a 911 dispatcher, according to audio released by police. The caller said the armed robber was a "black boy in a hoodie" and "the guys just took off running," according to the audio.
A person on the call identified as the victim of the robbery said the alleged holdup was over $10. He said he was unhurt. He said the gun looked like a Ruger 1911-style handgun, according to the audio.
Officers arriving at the scene saw three people matching the suspects' descriptions around a block away. However, when they attempted to speak with them, two of the males ran away, police said in a statement.
"Officers followed the males to the alley ... and attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband," police added. "One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times."
In the 911 audio, a caller tells dispatch: "There they are right there, running back through the alley! They're — oh! He's shooting them! Oh my God! Oh my God, they’re shooting!"
The Morning Rundown
King was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.
No one else was injured. The other male suspect was interviewed and later released pending further inquiries.
Area resident Chris Naderer told The Columbus Dispatch he heard a gate in his backyard get knocked down and then saw police chasing two young men in an alley outside of his home.
"Heard gun shots, five, 10 seconds afterwards," Naderer also told NBC affiliate WCMH.
As with all police-involved shootings, the officers will receive "mandated psychological support counseling" and be given the opportunity to "take leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience," according to Columbus police.
The officer who fired the shots was later identified as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran of the force who just recently transferred to the zone where the incident happened. He was being placed on paid administrative leave for about a week, said Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner.
Mason was previously involved in the fatal shooting of an armed man in 2012, reported the Dispatch. Police determined he acted within policy.
The family of the boy said in a statement that they want an independent investigation into the shooting.
"The Columbus Police Department has a history of investigating itself following these officer involved shootings and we believe that these investigations are inherently biased," attorney Chanda L. Brown said. "The best thing that the City of Columbus could do to ease the minds and fears of its citizens is to step aside and let an independent party investigate the matter."
Jacobs said investigators are expected to pass their review of the latest case onto a prosecutor and grand jury, which would determine whether any criminal charges are warranted against the officers involved.
It's unclear whether any surveillance or cellphone footage has been recovered showing the shooting.
Police also did not immediately say whether the officers involved were wearing body cameras. Last month, 30 Columbus cops began testing body-worn cameras and the department is expected to fully implement the devices by the end of the year, WCMH reported.
"You have to feel for the family in this and you also have to think about what the officer’s going through,” Weiner told reporters late Wednesday. "There’s no winners here."
King was last enrolled at Linden STEM Academy as an eighth grader, WCMH said. King’s family said in a statement released by their attorneys that “Tyre was a typical 13-year-old child. He was active in football, soccer, hockey, and gymnastics."
The city of Columbus has seen 13 police-involved shootings this year. Five ended with a civilian being fatally shot, and one resulted in the death of the officer.
The incident in Columbus comes almost two years after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by a police officer in Cleveland.
Rice, a black sixth-grade student, was holding a pellet gun when the officer shot him within two seconds of arriving at the scene.
His death sparked protests over policing and racial bias. Last December, a grand jury chose not to indict the two officers involved. In April, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by the Rice family.
Jacobs said it's too early to compare the shootings of King and Rice, although they both involve young black children carrying BB guns being fatally shot by white officers.
"We don’t have enough facts to know anything how this relates to any other shooting, including Tamir Rice’s," Jacobs said. "That’s why we do an investigation."
An attorney representing King’s family urged the public not to rush to judgment. "We do not know what he did or did not do. There are allegations that have been made regarding his actions, and those allegations cannot be taken as factual until a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place," attorney Sean L. Walton said.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called for calm while the investigation continues, but he said the shooting raises concerns about access to weapons, including BB guns made to look like actual firearms.
"We as a community need to come to grips with the fact that with such easy access to guns — whether they're firearms or replicas — there’s something wrong with this country," Ginther said, "and it's bringing this epidemic to our city streets."