A 13-year-old black boy has been shot dead by police in
the US state of Ohio after allegedly pulling an air gun from his waistband while being arrested.
Officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery in Columbus when they spotted three male suspects matching the descriptions given by the victim.
Two then ran off and were followed by police to an alley.
There, police say, Tyree King pulled out the gun and was shot multiple times by a white officer.
Police later established that the boy had actually been carrying a BB gun – a type of sporting air gun that is designed to shoot pellets – with an attached laser sight.
The victim of the robbery told officers the group had approached him and demanded money. One of them reportedly had a gun.
After the shooting, Tyree King was taken to a children’s hospital, where he later died.
The other suspect found with him in the alley was questioned and released pending further investigation.
More suspects are being pursued, police say.
In a press conference on Thursday morning, Chief of Police Kim Jacobs showed reporters a photo of the kind of BB gun found at the scene.
“Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon,” she said, holding the printed image up for cameras. “It turned out not to be a firearm in the sense that it fires real bullets but as you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you.”
Columbus police said the officer involved, a nine-year veteran of the service named Brian Mason, would receive mandated psychological counselling and would be offered leave to help cope with the “traumatic experience”.
Police chief Jacobs said Mr Mason had “just recently transferred to that area of town.”
Social media users are comparing Tyree King’s death to the shooting of another black child in the state.
In 2014, Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Cleveland while he was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation centre.
The city agreed earlier this year to pay $6m (£4.14m) to his family.
His death sparked local protests at a time when the deaths of black people at the hands of police had sparked a national debate.
Asked about the comparisons being made by members of the public, Police Chief Jacobs said: “I don’t know how they would know that. We don’t have enough facts to know how this relates to any other shooting.”
She said the investigation, once complete, would be referred to a grand jury, who would decide if any criminal charges should be brought.
City mayor Andrew Ginther appealed for patience during this “difficult time”.
“It is a dangerous time to be a police officer in this country,” he said. “It is our job to support them, as well as the people they protect.”
“It is critical that we remain calm and committed to the investigative process.”
Both the mayor and police committed to sharing information from the investigation publicly as it became available.