Cleveland police on Saturday shot a 12-year-old outside a recreation center in Cleveland, Ohio. Allegedly the boy pulled a black BB gun from his waistband and a rookie officer opened fire. According to authorities the BB gun resembled a real pistol with the orange indicator removed.
The shooting occurred approximately at 3:30 pm at the Cudell Rec Center at 1910 West Boulevard in Cleveland. Police were answering a distress call about an unidentified man threatening people near the rec center with a gun said Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Field Operations.
The person who notified the authorities told police dispatchers that the gun was probably not real. The man told police that he was at the park near the rec center and saw someone with a gun on the swing set pulling the object from his waist. On the call he said that there was a person with a pistol, that it was most likely not a real gun, but that he was pointing it at several people.
A rookie cop and a seasoned veteran officer pulled into the rec center and observed a few people sitting beneath a pavilion next to the center. According to Jeffrey Follmer, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President, the rookie cop noticed a black gun on the table and saw the young boy pick it up and tuck into his waistband but the fact that the gun was probably a fake was never relayed to the responding officers.
The rookie officer advised the boy to raise his hands but according to Newsnet 5 Cleveland, he refused to do so and reached into his waistband before the officer opened fire. The Cleveland police officer fired two shots, one of which striking the 12-year-old in the stomach. Tomba said the boy did not verbally or physically threaten the officer but officers are trained to respond as if the gun is real.
The unidentified boy was rushed to MetroHealth Medical Center in serious condition. His current condition remains unknown. Another officer was treated for an ankle injury and was transported to Fairview Hospital, police said. The nature of the officer’s injury was not disclosed.
Witnesses at the scene were heard describing the 12-year-old as a “little Black boy.” Community activists hurled obscenities from behind a group of reporters as tensions are already high in light of the Ferguson case in which unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson. Tomba said that it was a very tragic incident. The police department is already under investigation with the United States Department of Justice for claims of excessive force against its citizens.
The Cleveland Police department’s deadly force investigation team, composed of officers from homicide and internal affairs units, city and Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office, and members of the Office of Professional Standards will determine if the shooting was justified. Tomba assured those at the press conference that the investigation would be open.
The officer involved shooting comes during a 24 hour window were seven people were gunned down including a 17-year-old girl and a newborn baby. A 10-year-old girl was also shot during that span of time.
This is the first time Cleveland police have shot a 12-year-old but not the first time an innocent person was shot by police over a toy gun. Recently, an Ohio grand jury declined to charge two officers for killing 22-year-old John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Wal-Mart on Aug 5. Crawford went to Wal-Mart to buy s’mores and was holding an MK-177 BB/Pellet Rifle when he was gunned down by police. Ronald Ritchie, the sole individual in Wal-Mart to call police later recanted his account after surveillance footage proved his account to be false.
By Stevenson Benoit