CHICAGO • A white Ohio policeman, responding to reports of an armed robbery, fatally shot a black 13-year-old boy after he pulled out what appeared to be a weapon that was later determined to be a BB gun, police said.
The teen was shot multiple times when he drew what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband during a confrontation with officers in an alley on Wednesday in Columbus, the state capital, police said.
"We consider it a tragedy when something like this happens," Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs told a news conference on Thursday. "This is the last thing any police officer wants."
Ms Jacobs identified the officer who shot the teen as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran. Mr Mason was placed on temporary administrative duty, pending an internal investigation.
Police identified the victim as Tyree King, although a family lawyer said the boy's first name was Tyre.
The family said in a statement, released by a Columbus law firm that it retained to investigate the shooting, that "numerous witness accounts are in direct conflict with the officer's version of the events".
The family also said reports of Tyree's actions before the shooting were only allegations at this point and called for an independent investigation.
Tyree'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.
An investigation revealed that Tamir, who died a day after the shooting, had been seen holding a replica gun that shoots plastic pellets.
His death became a rallying point for the Black Lives Matter movement and was one of a number of deaths that led to nationwide demonstrations against the use of excessive and, sometimes, deadly force against minorities, especially young black men, by police officers.
On July 5, police shot dead 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 32-year-old Philando Castile was fatally shot by police in St Paul, Minnesota, a day later.
In Tyree's case, detectives retrieved the weapon from the scene of the shooting and later determined it was a BB gun, which shoots small round pellets, with an attached laser, police said. "It looks like a firearm that could kill you," Ms Jacobs said, as she held up an image of the same type of BB gun.
The incident began just before 8pm on Wednesday when police responded to reports of an armed robbery. The robbery victim told officers that a group of males had demanded money, threatening him with a gun, police said.
A short time later, officers found three males, including Tyree, matching the descriptions of the suspects, police said. While they were attempting to question them, Tyree and another male fled into an alley.
Police followed and Mr Mason shot Tyree after he pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband, police said. Tyree was taken to the Nationwide Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The second male who ran into the alley was interviewed by police and released. Additional suspects were being sought.
The Columbus Dispatch newspaper identified the second male as Demetrius Braxton, 19, who told the newspaper in an interview that he was with Tyree during both the robbery and the shooting.
"I was in the situation. We robbed somebody, the people I was with," Braxton said, according to the Dispatch.