A 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun died today after he was shot by a US police officer responding to an emergency call about a person waving a gun in a park.
Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said the officer fired twice after the boy pulled the fake weapon – which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually on the muzzle – from his waistband.
The boy did not make any verbal threats toward the officer or point the gun, but reached into his waistband and grabbed it after being told to raise his hands, Mr Tomba said.
“That’s when the officer fired,” he said.
Police in Cleveland said the weapon was an “airsoft” type replica gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol. The orange safety indicator had been removed, police said.
A man who called police told emergency dispatchers before police arrived that the boy was on a swing set and pointing a pistol that was “probably fake” and scaring everyone.
The caller said the boy was pulling the gun in and out of his trousers.
“I don’t know if it’s real or not,” the caller said.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said the officers were not told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
The officer dispatched to the park saw the pistol sitting on a table, and watched the boy grab it and put it in his waistband, Mr Follmer said.
The hospital where the boy died and a lawyer for his family would not release his name today.
The lawyer, Timothy Kucharski said the boy went to the park with friends yesterday afternoon, but he did not know the details of what led to the shooting.
“I don’t want to make a rush to judgment,” he said.
He said he wants to talk to witnesses and get more facts.
“We’re ultimately going to find out what happened,” Mr Kucharski said.