On Sunday, 12-year-old African American Tamir Rice died in the hospital after being shot by Cleveland officers responding to a call about a male who was pulling a gun in and out of his pants on Saturday. The gun happened to be a toy pellet gun and the male happened to be a little boy, but Rice was still shot from less than 10 feet away despite the fact that the caller told the dispatcher twice that the gun was “probably fake.”
On Monday, Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams defended the officer who shot Rice, saying that the cop “had to protect himself” against what might have been a real gun. At a press conference, Williams said:
“There is no time that a Cleveland police officer wants to go out and shoot a kid, period. The investigation — all the video evidence, all the scientific evidence — will show everyone exactly what happened.”
Williams revealed – without disclosing the officer’s name or race – that the officer is currently on administrative leave and very “broken up about this.”
Williams also stated that children should be educated by their parents on the dangers of weapons, which include toys like the “airsoft” gun Rice had been playing with.
“Our kids need to know that guns aren’t toys.”
Gregory Henderson, Rice’s father, wondered why the officer had not used a Taser gun on Rice instead of shooting the young boy. Rice was shot twice, and one of the bullets went into his torso.
Williams’ defense of his officer came on the same day that a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, the cop responsible for fatally shooting black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson. At the same press conference Williams had spoke at, Cleveland Mayor Frank Johnson said:
“Ferguson being out there, not being out there, doesn’t matter to me. It’s about the child, the loss of his life, the grieving of the family.”
On Sunday, the police had released a statement describing what had transpired between the two officers and Rice. The two officers – one of whom was a rookie – had seen Rice at a recreation center and “advised him to raise his hands.”
“The suspect did not comply with the officers’ orders and reached to his waistband for the gun. Shots were fired and the suspect was struck in the torso.
Further information reveals that the weapon which the 12-year-old suspect was in possession of is an ‘airsoft’ type replica gun resembling a semi-automatic pistol, with the orange safety indicator removed.”
Timothy Kucharski, a lawyer for Rice’s family, insisted that Rice never once pointed the toy gun at the police.
Williams said that all evidence will be examined, all witnesses interviewed, and video footage of the incident would be reviewed in the approaching days.