This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice. Rice, 12, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun, triggering an investigation into his death and a legislator's call for such weapons to be brightly colored or bear special markings. (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)
This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice. Rice, 12, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun, triggering an investigation into his death and a legislator's call for such weapons to be brightly colored or bear special markings. (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)
This undated photo provided by the family’s attorney shows Tamir Rice. Rice, 12, was fatally shot by police in Cleveland after brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun, triggering an investigation into his death and a legislator’s call for such weapons to be brightly colored or bear special markings. (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson & Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)

CLEVELAND (New York Times) — It began with a swap: one boy’s cellphone for another’s replica of a Colt pistol.

One of the boys went to play in a nearby park, striking poses with the lifelike, airsoft-style gun, which fired plastic pellets. He threw a snowball, settled down at a picnic table and flopped his head onto his arms in a perfect assertion of preteen ennui, a grainy security video shows.

Then, with the gun tucked away, he walked to the edge of the gazebo. He might have been wandering aimlessly, or he might have been attracted by the sight of a squad car barreling across the lawn.

Seconds later, the boy lay dying from a police officer’s bullet. “Shots fired, male down,” one of the officers in the car called across his radio. “Black male, maybe 20, black revolver, black handgun by him. Send E.M.S. this way, and a roadblock.”

But the boy, Tamir Rice, was only 12. Now, with the county sheriff’s office reviewing the shooting, interviews and recently released video and police records show how a series of miscommunications, tactical errors and institutional failures by the Cleveland police cascaded into one irreversible mistake.

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