Cleveland police officers were under investigation Sunday following the death of a 12-year-old boy who was shot by an officer for allegedly pulling a realistic-looking BB gun from his waistband. The boy, identified as Tamir E. Rice of Cleveland, died Sunday morning after being taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, a police union official said.
The incident comes just prior to a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury’s expected verdict on whether to indict Darren Wilson, a police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown Aug. 9.
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"This is not a black and white issue. This is a right and wrong issue," attorney Tim Kucharski, who represents the family of the Cleveland boy, told CNN.
Officers involved in the Saturday incident were responding to a 911 caller around 3:30 p.m., following a report the boy was pointing the pistol at bystanders.
“I’m sitting in the park and there’s a guy in here with a pistol and it’s probably a fake one. But he’s pointing it at everybody,” the 911 caller said.
When police arrived on the scene, the boy didn’t point the gun at the officers, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba of the Cleveland Division of Police said during a press conference. But the boy allegedly reached for the gun from his waistband. An officer then fired two shots, one of which hit the boy’s torso, according to multiple reports.
Though the caller had doubts about whether or not the gun was real, that message was never relayed to the officers on scene, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. This was the first year on the job for one of the officers while the other had 10 years experience, the report said.
Photos of the weapon show it resembles a pistol.
One officer was hospitalized at Fairview Hospital with an ankle injury, Cleveland police said. Both officers were placed on administrative leave as part of protocol after an officer-involved shooting incident.
"We don't come to work everyday and want to use force on anybody," Tomba said during the press conference. "That's not what our job is. We're part of this community."
The Cleveland police department is one of two currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged misconduct. One of its officers, Michael Brelo, was indicted in May on two counts of manslaughter for his alleged part in firing 137 bullets at two unarmed suspects, the New York Times reported.
The names of officers involved in Saturday's shooting have not been released.