(CNN) — A police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old black robbery suspect in Ohio’s capital after the boy pulled a BB gun out of his waistband, police said, a shooting that city leaders said would be investigated thoroughly to determine if charges are warranted.
The boy, Tyree King, died at a hospital after an officer shot him several times Wednesday evening outside a house in east-central Columbus, police said.
King had a BB gun that “looks practically identical” to the type of handgun that Columbus police carry, police Chief Kim Jacobs said Thursday.
“This is the last thing that a police officer wants to do in their career. Unfortunately … it becomes necessary at times to defend themselves,” Jacobs told reporters at a news conference in Columbus.
The police officer will be placed on leave for at least a week, pending an investigation, Jacobs said.
Jacobs and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther expressed condolences to the boy’s family and called for calm, saying the investigation into whether the officer’s gunfire was justified will take time.
Ginther called the child’s death troubling and said it should be a “call to action for our entire community.”
“Why is it that a 13-year-old would have nearly an exact replica of a police firearm on him in our neighborhoods — an eighth-grader involved in very, very dangerous conduct in one of our neighborhoods?” Ginther said.
“A 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns,” he said.
Alleged robbery victim said group pulled gun on him
The shooting happened after an alleged robbery victim told police that a group had pulled a gun on him and demanded money.
Officers eventually saw three people matching the alleged robbers’ descriptions, and two of them ran. When officers caught up to them and tried to arrest them in an alley, King pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband, and an officer shot him, police said.
The weapon turned out to be a BB gun with a laser sight attachment designed to help a shooter’s aim, according to police.
At Thursday’s news conference, Jacobs held a picture of an example of the type of BB gun she said was involved.
The gun “turns out not to be a firearm in the sense that it fires real bullets, but … it looks like a firearm that can kill you.”
Further details about the gun weren’t immediately available.
A person who was with King was interviewed and released pending further investigation. Others are being sought, police said.
“It’s senseless that something like this has to happen. We’re talking about a 13-year-old that made a decision,” Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said, according to CNN affiliate WSYX-TV. “The investigation is still ongoing, and we still have people that we want to find.”
Officer on administrative leave
Jacobs said the officer’s future with the department beyond the period of administrative leave depends on the investigation. The officer also will need to see a psychologist before being allowed to return to duty, she said.
“I will not let an officer out on the street to perform their job if I do not trust them,” Jacobs said.
She said results of the investigation would be sent to the county prosecutor, whom she expects will convene a grand jury to determine whether charges should be filed against the officer.
Two years after Tamir Rice’s shooting
The shooting reverberated on social media.
Some came to the officer’s defense, saying it would have been hard for him to discern quickly the difference between the BB gun and a more lethal firearm. Others lamented what they see as officers shooting without justification.
Still others, including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, drew parallels between King’s death and that of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was shot and killed by a police officer in Cleveland in November 2014.
Rice was holding a pellet gun when Officer Timothy Loehmann fired the fatal shots within two seconds of arriving outside a recreation center where the sixth-grader was. The boy died a day later.
Loehmann, who’d been called there after a 911 caller reported seeing someone with a pistol that might have been fake, said he thought the boy appeared older and had a real gun.
A grand jury in 2015 chose not to indict the two responding police officers.
On Thursday, a reporter asked the Columbus police chief to respond to those would say that King’s death is similar to Rice’s.
“I don’t know how they would know that,” Jacobs said. “We don’t have enough facts to know anything about how this relates to any other shooting, including Tamir Rice’s.”
Rice’s shooting was captured on a surveillance camera. Columbus investigators are trying to determine whether there were any surveillance cameras in the area of King’s shooting, Jacobs said.
Columbus police officers do not yet wear body cameras. The mayor said city officials intend to have officers wear body cameras by the beginning of 2017.
“Tamir Rice’s investigation had video to use to help them investigate. … That is one difference already,” Jacobs said. “The fact is that a young man in Cleveland and a young man in Columbus were both involved in police-involved shootings and unfortunately succumbed to their injuries. That’s something that is very troubling.”
CNN’s Alanne Orjoux, Kristina Sgueglia, Kwegyirba Croffie, Lechelle Benken and Sheena Jones contributed to this report.