A 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, died early Sunday from complications after being shot in the stomach by Cleveland police. The officers believed that the fake pistol Rice had been brandishing on a playground was real.
According to Cleveland.com, someone called 911 describing “a guy with a gun pointing it at people,” but the caller twice suggested the gun was “probably fake” and that the individual was “probably a juvenile,” but it’s unclear if this information was relayed to police. The officers arrived at the recreation center and ordered the boy to raise his hands, but when he reached for his gun instead, one of the officers fired twice, hitting the boy once.
Deputy Chief Ed Tomba explained at a press conference that there was no verbal confrontation; the boy did not threaten the police officers nor point the gun at them. They only learned afterward that the gun was fake — a BB gun with the orange safety marker scratched off. Both officers, one of whom is a rookie in his first year on the force, have been placed on administrative leave, according to protocol.
This is hardly the first shooting related to a toy or fake gun. In August, 22-year-old John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot dead by police inside a Wal-Mart for carrying a BB gun that is made to look like a more deadly weapon and is actually sold by Wal-Mart.
Back in July of 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was fatally shot when police similarly mistook his BB gun for an assault rifle. Officer Erick Gelhaus waited no more than 10 seconds for Lopez to put the gun down before firing seven shots at point-blank range. The gun, like in the Cleveland case, was missing an orange plastic plug that is supposed to help identify it as a toy. After the shooting was investigated, Gelhaus did not face any criminal charges.