Cleveland police under investigation in shooting of 12-year-old boy

A caller who reported a young man with a gun told dispatchers the weapon was "probably fake," but it's not clear responding officers were told.

By Gabrielle Levy

CLEVELAND, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The police shooting of a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun in Cleveland is under investigation as the community questions what might have prevented a child's death.

Tamir Rice was shot Saturday after Cleveland police responded to a call reporting "a guy with a pistol" at Cudell Recreation Center.


"There's a guy with a pistol, and he's pointing it at everybody," the caller is heard saying in an audio release. "It's probably fake, but you know what, it's scaring the [expletive] out of everyone."

Officers said they told Tamir to put up his hands, but he instead reached for the gun -- described as an Airsoft, resembling a semi-automatic pistol with the orange safety tip removed -- in his waistband. A rookie officer fired two shots, hitting Tamir in the abdomen.

RELATED House GOP files Obamacare lawsuit against president

The boy did not make any verbal threats toward police, nor did he point the gun at them.

He died Sunday at MetroHealth Medical Center.

Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, said it was unclear whether dispatchers told responding officers that the gun was likely a toy.

RELATED Six new Bill Cosby accusers come forward in 2 days

"Besides, we have to assume every gun is real," Follmer said. "When we don't, that's they day we don't go home."


For Gregory Henderson, Tamir's father, the official story is not nearly enough.

"Why not Tase him?" Henderson asked, calling his son a "respectful" young man who would have followed police orders. "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."

RELATED Boehner: Immigration executive order 'damages the presidency itself'

Follmer said officers are trained to shoot for the body if they feel their lives to be in danger.

Timothy Kucharski, an attorney for Tamir's family, said he would conduct an investigation "parallel" to the one being led by police.

"If in fact we determine Tamir's rights are violated, we will proceed with civil action against the police," Kurcharski told the BBC.

RELATED Ami Bera finishes Dems' sweep of competitive Calif. districts

The incident has raised questions as to whether race was a factor in the shooting, as several officer-involved shootings in recent months have brought police use of force into the national spotlight. In Missouri, the Ferguson community is bracing for a decision on whether to indict the white police officer who shot African-American teen Michael Brown on Aug. 8.

Saturday's shooting prompted calls for Cleveland police to begin wearing body cameras. Unlike the Ferguson shooting, however, surveillance cameras captured Saturday's incident. The video has not yet been released.


Meanwhile, state Rep. Alice Reece of Cincinnati announced legislation to require all BB guns, air rifles and Airsoft guns sold in the state to be brightly colored or marked with florescent strips to avoid confusion.

Two officers have been placed on administrative leave while the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office investigates the shooting. The evidence will eventually be handed to a grand jury.

Latest Headlines


Follow Us