As the world awaits a potential grand jury indictment of Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, two more recent shootings will surely add to outrage over recent incidents of police brutality and excessive force toward unarmed citizens.
Tragedy unfolded in Cleveland yesterday at the Cudell Recreation Center. Police received reports that a man was pointing a pistol at people on the playground and responded to the call around 3:30 p.m.. In the recently released 911 call, the caller said, “There is a guy with a pistol, it’s probably fake, but he’s pointing it at everyone." The caller also said that the "guy" was "probably a juvenile" but those statements were never relayed to the police officers.
When they arrived at the scene, the officers told the 12-year-old boy to raise his hands. He did not comply, but instead reached into his waistband to get the toy gun, at which point the police shot him twice in the abdomen. The replica gun turned out to be a air-soft, "BB" gun type that looked like an automatic pistol.
The boy, identified as Tamir E Rice, was rushed to MetroHealth Medical Center for surgery, but died early today according to a hospital spokesperson. Both officers were put on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Deputy Chief of Field Operations Ed Tomba called the incident tragic.
"We don't come to work every day and want to use force on anybody," he told Cleveland.com. "That's not what our job is. We're part of this community. [It's] very, very tragic. When an officer gives a command, we expect it to be followed. The way it looks like right now, it wasn't followed, but we're going to continue our investigation."
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and the police force themselves are investigating the shooting.
This shooting, along with another in New York late last week, continue a tragic year in which unarmed black men have been shot and/or killed by police leading to a national debate on race and tactics used by law enforcement.
On Thursday, 28-year-old unarmed Akai Gurley was shot in the chest and killed in the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn. Two police officers in the building's stairwell prepared to enter the 8th floor at the same time that the man and his girlfriend entered the 7th floor stairwell. According to reports, officer Peter Liang's sidearm went off while he tried to open a door to the 8th floor.
Meanwhile, in a rare glimpse of hope among the ongoing tension in Ferguson, Michael Brown, the father of the slain Mike Brown, passed out turkeys last night to residents and protestors of the same street in which his son was killed.
"Everyone is suffering over this," Brown said to the Chicago Tribune. "I just feel that this was needed, so I came back to make sure that people have a nice Thanksgiving."