CLEVELAND (TheBlaze/AP) — A 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be a replica gun died Sunday after he was shot by a Cleveland police officer responding to a 911 call about a person waving a gun at a playground.
The officer fired twice after the boy pulled the fake weapon from his waistband, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said. The boy did not make any verbal threats toward the officer or point the gun — which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually on the muzzle — but grabbed it after being told to raise his hands, Tomba said.
"That's when the officer fired," he said.
Police said the weapon was an "airsoft" type replica gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol. The orange safety indicator had been removed, police said.
A man who called 911 told dispatchers before police arrived that the boy was on a swing set and pointing a pistol that was "probably fake" and scaring everyone. The caller said the boy was pulling the gun in and out of his pants. "I don't know if it's real or not," the caller said.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said the officers were not told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
The officer called to the playground outside a city recreation center saw the pistol sitting on a table or bench, and watched the boy grab it and put it in his waistband, Follmer said.
The hospital where the boy died and an attorney for his family would not release his name on Sunday.
Attorney Timothy Kucharski said the boy went to the park with friends Saturday afternoon, but he did not know the details of what led to the shooting. "I don't want to make a rush to judgment," he said.
He said he wants to talk to witnesses and get more facts. "We're ultimately going to find out what happened," Kucharski said.
The police department is investigating the shooting.
Cleveland police have been under increased scrutiny during the last few years; the U.S. Justice Department has been conducting an investigation of their pursuit and use of force practices.
Federal officials said in March 2013 that their investigation would go beyond a high-profile car chase that ended with officers firing 137 shots and two deaths.
Last week, it was announced that relatives of the two people killed in the 2012 chase will split a $3 million settlement from the city of Cleveland.
The families filed a lawsuit after 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams were killed by police after a 20-mile pursuit that involved 62 police cruisers and more than 100 officers. Six police officers involved in the chase were indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
The department changed its pursuit policy after the chase, limiting when and how long patrol cars can chase suspects.