COLUMBUS — The white Ohio police officer who fatally shot a black 13-year-old boy after a suspected robbery last year feared a “gun fight” with the teen, who the officer said pulled a gun from his pants, records show.
Columbus police Officer Bryan Mason fired when he saw a laser sight on the weapon, which turned out to be a BB gun, Mason said in a formal statement and interview with detectives obtained by The Associated Press through a records request. Law enforcement officials previously had described the encounter, but the records obtained by the AP reveal Mason’s firsthand account of what happened.
Tyre King refused to comply with Mason’s commands to “get down” and tugged on his gun in his waistband a couple of times as if it were caught on something, Mason said in the statement.
The teen’s “refusal to comply with my commands and his continuing attempts to pull the gun out, caused me to believe that he was going to engage me in a gun fight,” Mason said.
When Tyre pulled out the gun and Mason saw the laser sight, “I believed he was going to shoot me, and I fired my gun at him,” Mason said in his statement. He said he never considered the gun wasn’t real.
Police later determined the gun was inoperable because it lacked a propellant cartridge and could only have fired a BB if it was held upside down, records show.
Attorneys representing the boy’s family criticized the report Thursday, calling it incomplete and minimal. They say witnesses tell a different story of events that night and an investigation continues.
“It is clear that the Columbus Division of Police has either an inability to hold Officer Mason accountable for his use of force against citizens, or no interest in doing so,” said attorneys Sean Walton and Chanda Brown.
Columbus police declined to comment, citing possible litigation.
The shooting was a flashpoint in and around Columbus and spurred protests, including disruptions at Columbus City Council meetings. It added to a list of killings of black males by police in Ohio and other states that have attracted national attention.
In May, a grand jury voted not to indict Mason in the September 2016 shooting. A message was left with the officer through the local police union.
“Mason was within policy and did everything right that day,” Jason Pappas, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, told the AP on Thursday.
Mason was involved in three previous shootings, including one that was fatal, and was cleared of wrongdoing each time. Mason’s personnel file is full of commendations. He remains with the city police department.
Tyre was in a group of young men who had robbed a man of $10 at gunpoint, according to police accounts of the Sept. 14 robbery in the city’s Old Towne East neighborhood east of downtown.
Before the robbery, the group knew Tyre had the weapon and that it was a fake, records show.
“This isn’t real, it’s a BB gun,” Demetrious Braxton, a member of the group, told police in an interview afterward, recounting a conversation before the robbery.
“Well, nobody else will know,” someone in the group replied, the records show.
Braxton pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in November and agreed to testify against others as part of a plea deal.
Mason shot Tyre three times, records show. A county coroner said Tyre died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso.
The attorney representing Tyre’s family has argued that because Tyre was shot three times on the left side, the results indicate he was running away at the time and not posing a threat to police. A medical examiner hired by the family reached the same conclusion.
Mason said in his statement that Tyre spun to his right after the first shot.
Mason was just two days into a new assignment when he responded to the robbery call. That’s where he encountered Braxton and Tyre, who fled, leading to the chase and shooting, police records show.