A Cleveland police officer responding to a 911 call about an African-American “guy with a pistol” at a park near Cudell Recreation Center responded in the manner expected from a department that is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice for its regular use of excessive force against the civilian population.
The “guy” in question was a 12-year-old boy, and the officer shot him twice. The caller told 911 dispatch that “There’s a guy with a pistol, and it’s probably fake, but he’s pointing it everybody.”
“The guy, he’s pulling it out of his pants– it’s probably fake,” the man repeated. “He’s scaring the sh*t out of everybody.” The dispatcher asked what the “guy” looked like. When the man began to describe what the boy was wearing, the dispatcher interrupted, “Is he black or white?”
“He’s wearing a gray coat with black sleeves and gray pants,” the man said, also noting the child was wearing a camouflage hat.
“Is he black or white?” the dispatcher repeated. The caller informed her that the boy was black.
“He’s sitting on a swing right now,” the 911 caller said. “But he keeps pulling it out of his pants and pointing it at people. Probably a juvenile, you know?” The man informed the dispatcher that he was getting ready to leave, “but he’s over there by the youth center.”
When the two officers arrived, they found a group of people sitting around a table under a gazebo. The “pistol” was sitting on the table, and one officer saw the boy place it in his waistband. According to a report by Northwest Ohio Media Group, the officer told the boy to raise his hands. Instead, the boy reached into his waistband and grabbed the “gun,” presumably to show the officer it was not real.
Knowing this was a child, and despite the 911 caller saying the gun was probably not real, the officer fired two shots — at least one of which hit the boy in the stomach.
Police confirmed that the “weapon” was “an Airsoft type replica gun resembling a semi-automatic pistol.”
Officers claim, despite 911 audio showing otherwise, they were responding to reports of a “male with a gun threatening people.” They did not mention that the caller clearly stated the person was a juvenile and twice noted the gun was likely not real.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer said that the dispatcher likely never relayed that the gun was probably fake to responding officers. “Besides we have to assume every gun is real. When we don’t, that’s the day we don’t go home.”
“We don’t come to work everyday and want to use force on anybody,” Deputy Chief of Field Operations Ed Tomba said. “That’s not what our job is. We’re part of this community.” Tomba promised that the “very, very tragic” shooting would be investigated. However, he did engage in the victim-blaming that has become typical of law enforcement today.
“When an officer gives a command, we expect it to be followed,” Tomba said. “The way it looks like right now, it wasn’t followed, but we’re going to continue our investigation.”
Union officials say the officers asked responsibly, and they boy had what looked to them to be a real gun. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
The boy was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries. He passed away early Sunday morning.
Watch a report on the shooting below, via Action News 19: