COLUMBUS, Ohio – An officer responding to a reported armed robbery shot and killed a 13-year-old boy when the teen pulled a firearm from his waistband that was later determined to be a BB gun but looked "practically identical" to the weapon that police use, authorities said Thursday.
The shooting happened around nightfall Wednesday in an alley east of downtown Columbus after a short foot chase.
Columbus police said officers had spotted three males who matched the description of the robbery suspects, and two of them ran away when officers tried to speak with them.
Officers followed the pair into a nearby alley and tried to take them into custody. Police said that's when 13-year-old Tyree King pulled out a gun, and one officer fired his weapon, hitting the boy repeatedly.
Tyree died at a children's hospital. The officers and the other male involved in the encounter weren't injured.
Authorities identified the officer who fired as a nine-year veteran of the force named Bryan Mason. He is white; Tyree was black.
At a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo of what she called a "replica" of the BB gun that Tyree had.
"Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon," she said. "As you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you."
Mason has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, per department protocol, Jacobs said.
Authorities said it wasn't clear if the shooting was caught on surveillance or cellphone video. Columbus police don't use body cameras.
Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up as he called for the community to come together to help ensure children remain safe. He questioned why an eighth-grader would have a replica of a police firearm.
"There is something wrong in this country, and it is bringing its epidemic to our city streets," Ginther said. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."
Neighborhood resident Chris Naderer said he was home at the time and heard someone break fencing in his backyard, then saw an officer chasing two young black men and heard several gunshots.
"I just think it was bad circumstances that he had a gun," Naderer said.
Police reviewing evidence from the scene determined the boy's firearm was actually a BB gun with an attached laser sight.
The male who had been with Tyree was interviewed and released pending further investigation, police said. They provided no further information about him.
Police said additional suspects were being sought as the shooting and reported robbery remained under investigation.
The shooting will be reviewed internally, which is required under Columbus Division of Police protocol.
Jacobs said it's too soon to draw comparisons between Tyree's death and the Cleveland death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, another case in which a white policeman fatally shot a black boy who had a pellet gun.
There was no chase in Tamir's case. A caller reported someone pointing a gun at people near a recreation center, and a rookie officer shot Tamir almost immediately after his police cruiser stopped nearby. The caller had said the person was likely a juvenile and the weapon was probably fake, but the call taker never passed that information to the dispatcher of the responding officers.