On Sept. 13, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio, the killing of 13-year-old Tyre King, appeared as though history had repeated itself. It was 683 days after 12-year-old, Tamir Rice was gunned down at a cold snowy park in Cleveland.
King and the kindred Killing of Rice, both shocked the nation. Although King’s death did not involve a recreational area or a chilly snow-white day, it did entail a chase into an alley, multiple shots, and his demise. His life was gone after he tried to run from law enforcement officers, who were investigating an armed robbery.
King is the second youngest person shot and killed by police officers this year, according to a database kept by The Washington Post. The youngest being 12-year-old Ciara Meyer, who was accidently shot by officers, in Pennsylvania, during the course of an eviction.
Unlike Ciara’s death, it was not a single shot that took King’s life, but several. Multiple bullets fired by the gun of a 9-year veteran of the force, named Bryan Mason. He had just relocated to the area, but this was not the first time he was involved in a shooting.
Bryan Mason, Killer Cop or Hero?
According to Daily News, Mason is perceived as a hero by his colleagues. This is because, in 2012, he saved the life of a young African-American who attempted suicide. Records show that Mason performed CPR on the teen, along with another officer, until the ambulance arrived.
In the eyes of the president of the police union, Jason Pappas, who is representing Mason, he is a hero, even after King’s death. “There are some villainous individuals doing appalling things in this world, but Bryan is not fearful about going out in our community and addressing those issues that will make it safer,” he said.
However, King’s family does not see it the way Pappas does. Lawyers for his family are already calling for an independent investigation. They believe Mason’s record should be examined more carefully.
With a deeper examination, records do show that Mason has been implicated in other shootings. The investigation indicated that King was not his first casualty, however, he was exonerated of any wrongdoing. One of the shootings involved a white man holding another white man at gunpoint, and the man holding the firearm was shot to death in 2012. The same year, there were two other non-fatal incidents that involved the officer.
The Tragic Parallel
King was not killed because he ran from the police. He was killed because he had a pellet gun that looked real. Two years earlier, on a Sunday, alone at a park, Rice encountered the same scenario. He was carrying an airsoft gun designed to shoot non-lethal plastic pellets. This toy cost him his life, only two seconds after two officers pulled up in a police car.
However, the similarities in both King and Rice’s shootings are staggering. The boys were both African-Americans carrying fake firearms inserted in their waistbands before they were gunned down by white police officers.
Family members describe King as a fun and a considerate child, who was crazy about sports. He spent much of his time at a neighborhood recreation center playing basketball with other kids. Relatives describe him as an adolescent who was quite small for his age but a good student.
After living with his grandmother for a while, he moved in with his father, according to attorneys for the boy’s family. King was an eighth grader and attended a middle school that highlights technology and science in Columbus. He had recently moved in with his father before the shooting.
Opposite from King, Rice was no small child. At 12 years old, he was nearly 200 pounds and stood about five feet tall. Relatives and friends described him as a happy boy who, at times, acted immature for his age. Officers, Loehmann and Garmback, were also astonished by King’s size when they responded to the shooting. They thought he was an adult.
Both King and Rice had airsoft guns. According to the Columbus police department, King had a BB gun on him, which was hard to differentiate when placed next to a .40-caliber Ruger small-arm that the police utilize.
In the case of Rice, he was playing with an airsoft handgun that was an imitation of the .45-caliber Colt 1911. This type of gun is usually used by the military.
Their Final Minutes
Minutes before King’s death, Columbus police had chased after him and two other boys, on foot. It all went south in a dead end alley. Nowhere to run, he was cornered by Officer Mason. King pulled the gun from his waistband and within seconds, Mason fired multiple shots into the teenager and killed him. In this case, unlike Rice, there was no camera to capture the footage. At this time, Columbus police do not have body cameras.
King’s accomplice, 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton was with him when he was killed. He gives a more detailed account of the incident. “I was a part of it. We robbed a person.” Braxton expressed this to The Columbus Dispatch. In a somewhat different story of how Officer Mason came to shoot King, Braxton stated that they did exactly what they were told.
King and Braxton were ordered to get down on the ground, but King darted. Moments later, he was shot by police. “When Tyre ran, the police shot him,” Braxton told reporters. “I was surprised…I didn’t think they would kill him. I thought they would just Tase him, but they didn’t?”
Opening reports from police asserted officer Mason opened fire on King after he “went for a gun in his waistband.”
The Fatal Park
However, there is plenty of footage of Rice last moments on this earth. In fact, it is recognized as being one of the most detailed and examined police killings caught on video in U.S. history.
A fuzzy video recording from a surveillance camera displays Rice standing up from a picnic table beneath a now historic rotunda. The footage shows a cruiser skidding to a stop on an icy sidewalk less than 5 feet away from Rice.
In two seconds, shots were fired by rookie patrolman, Timothy Loehmann and Rice goes down. Before the disturbing takedown of the teenager, the video shows Rice’s final moments, grabbing his toy gun, which was tucked away in his waistband.
The Dreaded Aftermath
Although Mason has been with the Columbus police department for the past nine years, he is well-liked and respected by his peers, there still has not been any penalties in King’s shooting. Mason was cleared in the 2012 fatal shooting, as well as the ones in 2010 and 2013, which were non-fatal.
At the moment, Mason has been put on administrative leave in the shooting of King, which is the typical custom after theses type of incidents.
In the case of Rice, after two years, the cry for justice, according to family members, has not run dry. There are many questions that they feel are unanswered.
One of them being; why was Loehmann ever a police officer in the first place? The facts show he was a novice and untrained with dealing with brutal-prone neighborhoods of Cleveland.
It was exposed afterward that Cleveland police administrators never took a look at Loehmann’s personnel files previous to signing him on as a police officer.
According to a memo released in the aftermath of Rice’s death, Jim Polak, the Independence Deputy Police Chief, transcribed that Loehmann had quit instead of facing guaranteed termination. The document stated that Lohmann was short of the emotional strength needed to be an officer. The report further mentioned; “I do not believe that there is no amount of time, nor training, that will be able to alter or remedy these deficits.”
It is the tale of two shocking shootings, that occurred two years apart and only a two-hour drive from where each died. Both barely into their adolescence, King and Rice had their years cut short. However, in the eyes of their families and the world, they were just children that died without cause.
By Jomo Merritt
Edited by Jeanette Smith
NY Daily News: Ohio police officer who fatally shot black teen Tyre King helped save life of another boy who tried to hang himself
The Washington Post: Columbus police officer fatally shoots Tyre King, 13-year-old with a BB gun
NBC News: Tyre King, 13, Fatally Shot by Police in Columbus, Ohio
Fox News U.S.: Robbery suspect linked to slain Ohio boy, 13, due in court
Image Courtesy of West Midland’s Police’s Flickr Page – Public Domain