The Texas eighth grader shot and killed by police in a middle school hallway Wednesday was carrying a pellet gun, not a handgun as police initially thought.
The parents of 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez are demanding to know why officers took lethal force against their son, but police say the boy was brandishing -- and refused to drop -- what looked like a handgun, and that the officers acted correctly.
According to police radio records obtained by the Brownsville Herald, officers arrived at Cummings Middle School and saw a male holding a black handgun in a hallway. Police said he pointed the gun at officers as they repeatedly asked him to drop the weapon:
“Take him out,” a policeman yells, according to the radio records.
The sound of fired shots reverberates on the radio call. Officers quickly call for emergency medical crews.
“Subject shot,” an officer repeats on the radio call.
The teenager was shot three times, twice in the chest area and once in the back of the head, and later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. No one else was injured.
"Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" the boy's father, Jaime Gonzalez Sr., asked. "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?"
"What happened was an injustice," his mother Noralva Gonzalez said. "I know that my son wasn't perfect, but he was a great kid."
But interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said the teen was pointing the weapon at officers and "had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers' orders, and he didn't want to."
The chief said officers had every right to do what they did to protect themselves and other students even though there weren't many others in the hallway at the time.
Shortly before the confrontation, Gonzalez had walked into a classroom and punched a boy in the nose for no apparent reason, Rodriguez said. Police did not know why he pulled out the weapon, but "we think it looks like this was a way to bring attention to himself," Rodriguez said.
After the alleged assault, Gonzalez was walking toward the main office with the gun partially concealed in his clothes when an administrator saw him and called 911, the Herald reported. The school was immediately placed on lockdown and police moved in.
The teen's godmother, Norma Navarro, told the Herald he was a kind person and a good student.
“He looked like a big boy, a man, but he was a child. He was innocent," Navarro said. "He wasn’t going to hurt anybody, I can assure you. He would have never hurt anybody. I want those parents to know, don’t judge him if you don’t know him.”
Superintendent Carl Montoya remembered Gonzalez as "a very positive young man."
"He did music. He worked well with everybody. Just something unfortunately happened today that caused his behavior to go the way it went. So I don't know," he said.
Gonzalez Sr. said he had no idea where his son got the gun or why he brought it to school, adding, "We wouldn't give him a gift like that."
Brownsville is in the southern tip of Texas, just across from the Mexico border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.