Thirteen-year-old Tyre King was “more likely than not” running from Columbus, Ohio, police when Officer Bryan Mason fatally shot him, an independent medical examiner retained by the child’s family has now found.
Because results of the completed autopsy performed by the local coroner will not be revealed for another six weeks, King’s family hired Francisco J. Diaz, a forensic pathologist from Michigan, “to evaluate the number, characteristics and location of the gunshot wounds on Tyre,” the Guardian reported.
According to a statement from the family, published by attorneys Shawn L. Walton and Chanda L. Brown, Diaz said:
“Based on the location and direction of the wound paths, it is more likely than not that Tyre King was in the process of running away from the shooter or shooters when he suffered all three gunshot wounds.”
Police shot the 13-year-old multiple times as he fled an officer investigating a report of an armed robbery and brandished a ‘lifelike’ BB gun, according to authorities. Demetrius Braxton, 19, has since been arrested and charged in the robbery, during which he allegedly pointed a gun at a man and stole $10.
Walton confirmed by email to the Guardian Diaz conducted the examination on Sunday. Diaz noted to the media that examination was not an actual autopsy, but a two-hour review of the gunshot wounds, telling the Associated Press he “evaluated, took measurements, and made notations as to the characteristics of the wounds.”
Comparisons of the fatal shooting of 13-year-old King to that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice — who also had a BB gun in his possession — have similarities that cannot be overlooked.
Rice was shot nearly immediately after Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann arrived at the park where the child had been playing with the fake gun. That lethal shooting drew widespread outrage since Rice had committed no crime, and because Ohio is an open carry state.
That latter fact has now come into play in King’s case — if the police narrative the child turned and brandished the BB gun and the officer believed it to be real, the shooting could possibly be justified. But if King fled officers while simply holding the toy gun — as the pathologist’s exam seems to indicate — the use of deadly force would be highly questionable.
Braxton, who was questioned and released before witness identification led to his arrest, has admitted to being present for the robbery along with King and several others. He explained police demanded the small group get on the ground, which they did, but King — whom Diaz noted was only 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds — jumped up, ran, and was subsequently shot.
“The cops said to get down,” Braxton told the Columbus Dispatch, the Guardian reported. “We got down, but my friend got up and ran … [and] when he ran, the cop shot him.”
Columbus police remain tight-lipped about whether or not Braxton’s description of the shooting is accurate.
Diaz noted any one of the three shots that entered the child’s body — on his temple, collarbone, and left flank — could have been fatal.
ABC News reported more than 100 demonstrators assembled outside Columbus City Hall to echo King’s family’s call for an independent investigation of the shooting as well as an end to police violence and increased de-escalation training.
“The Columbus Police Department, the City of Columbus, and most importantly Tyre King and his family deserve the benefit of an investigation from a law enforcement agency that has no direct impact from the outcome of that investigation,” the family implored in the statement.
Despite the controversial nature of the shooting and grieving the loss of a child, the family urged the public to withhold judgment until a full and independent investigation reveals all the facts.