12-year-old with air gun dies in police shooting

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(CNN) — A Cleveland police officer responding to a call about a person with a gun fatally wounded a 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be an air gun, police said early Sunday.

The shooting Saturday afternoon came as the nation nervously awaited a grand jury decision on whether to charge the police officer who killed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

The attorney for the family of the Cleveland youngster, who also was black, downplayed any possible racial connotations to the shooting.

“This is not a black and white issue. This is a right and wrong issue,” attorney Tim Kucharski said.

Police were summoned to the scene outside a recreation center by a 911 caller who said someone — possibly a juvenile — was pointing a gun at people.

When officers arrived, the boy did not point the weapon at them or otherwise threaten them, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba of the Cleveland Division of Police told reporters early Sunday.

But he did reach for the weapon, Tomba said.

“The officers ordered him to stop and to show his hands and he went into his waistband and pulled out the weapon,” he said.

The 12-year-old’s name has not been released by police. He died Saturday night at MetroHealth Medical Center following surgery, according to the hospital and the family’s attorney.

Tomba showed reporters the weapon — a large, black BB- or pellet-type replica gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol. An orange tip indicating the gun was an air gun had been removed, police said.

According to the initial 911 call, provided by CNN affiliate WEWS, the boy was scaring people at the park.

“There’s a guy in there with a pistol, you know, it’s probably fake, but he’s like pointing it at everybody,” the caller said.

“He’s sitting on a swing right now, but he’s pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people,” the caller said. “He’s probably a juvenile, you know?”

People who had gathered around the early-morning media scrum with Tomba hurled angry questions at him, accusing police of unnecessary violence.

“It’s a toy gun and a 12-year-old,” a woman in the crowd yelled as reporters tried to ask questions, according to video provided by WEWS.

While saying a thorough and open investigation was under way, Tomba defended the officers’ actions in what he called a “very, very tragic situation.”

“They were doing their job,” he said.

Police shootings of African-Americans, particularly young men, have been under rising scrutiny in recent months following the shooting of Brown by a white officer following a brief confrontation in Ferguson.

A grand jury is expected to soon make a decision whether Officer Darren Wilson should face criminal charges in that incident, which resulted in widespread protests over police violence against African-Americans.

CNN’s Ronni Berke contributed to this report.

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  • Nibbs

    This is truly tragic, but the boy was pointing at people and scaring them in the park. Then when police told him to put his hands up………he reaches for the weapon? How were police supposed to know it wasn’t real.

  • fedUP

    Look, you stupid stupid blacks, if you and your “children” don’t want to be shot by police then stop doing things like waving guns around and refusing to obey orders from police when they show up. I am so sick of blacks and their bizarre way of thinking! Stop commiting crimes, put your hands in sight when police respond, don’t run at or attack police. it’s so simple. I know blacks chafe at any rules at all but if they are to coexist in society they need to learn how! Sheesh! Yes this is about black – about how damn stupid and unwilling to follow obvious simple rules they are!

  • Allison haskell

    well I say look at the parents I’m sorry I’m going to let my son play with this stuff unless paintball field w adult or even hunting with adult. Good question what was officer suppose to do and also watching and seeing to much of stuff on tv and streets so sad . Tragic again where is the responsibility