A 13-year-old black boy has been shot dead by a white Ohio police officer for pulling out a toy gun while he was being chased after a $10 theft.
The killing of Tyre King has reignited a fierce debate on why high number of police victims in the United States happen to be black.
But police in Columbus, the capital of the state of Ohio, said on Thursday that the BB gun looked just like the ones carried by the officers.
It remains unclear if the boy had actually pulled out the gun and aimed it at the officer, Bryan Mason, who shot King multiple times.
The family of the boy, in a statement through its lawyer, said officer's version of events was in conflict with numerous witness accounts.
How exactly King acted before he was shot dead is not known at the moment, the family said, and called for an independent investigation.
The episode unfolded when police responded to report of an armed robbery on Wednesday night. A man told officers that a group of young men had demanded money, threatening him with a gun.
According to AP, the victim calmly indicated he didn’t want to make a big deal over $10.
Sirens were heard moments later as police searched for the suspects.
A short time later officers found three males, including King, matching the description of the suspects, police said.
While attempting to question them, King and another male fled into an alley.
What happened afterwards remains sketchy.
Police say Mason fired after King pulled out the look-alike gun from his waistband.
I also will never believe that a child pointed a BB gun at a cop. Never. Show me video or you're lying. #TyreKing
— Russ Jackson (@Russ_Jack) September 15, 2016
But according to The Columbus Dispatch newspaper, 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton, the other boy who was with King, said police asked them to get down but King ran before being shot.
Braxton also admitted the boys committed the robbery.
"I didn't think a cop would shoot. Why didn’t they tase him," Braxton told the newspaper.
Police has not officially identified Braxton as the other boy who was with King. It only said it had questioned the other male, who was later released.
I realize the child had a BB gun, but there have been armed grown white males that have been subdued without losing their lives. #TyreeKing
— hris (@MrChristopherX) September 15, 2016
King, an 8th grader was taken to a children's hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He played several sports, including football, and was in the young scholars program at school, according to Sean Walton, the lawyer for his family.
He had a slight build and, if anything, was on the small side for his age, the attorney said.
Police officer Mason has been sent on leave while the shooting is investigated.
And it seemed the department was defending him.
"It looks like a firearm that could kill you," Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said at a press conference as she held up an image of the same type of BB gun.
"Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon."
— Makada (@_Makada_) September 15, 2016
On the morning after Tyre King's death, Mayor Andrew Ginther appeared to choke up as he called for the community to come together and 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 Thursday. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."
King's death comes nearly two years after the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was black, by a white Cleveland, Ohio police officer who was responding to reports of a suspect with a gun in a city park.
Cops really have folks believing that a 13 yr old kid alone and cornered by a cop pulled a gun that he knew was fake. Sure. #TyreeKing
— April (@ReignOfApril) September 15, 2016
An investigation revealed that Rice, who died a day after the shooting, had been seen holding a replica gun that shoots plastic pellets.
Rice's death became a rallying point for the Black Lives Matter movement.
King is one of 14 children killed by police this year, according to The Guardian.
"At least 34 people who were killed by police this year were carrying non-lethal firearms, such as pellet or toy guns that authorities mistook for lethal weapons" it said.