When the 'Facts' Are Not Facts At All, and the Cops Are Killing Black Children

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Columbus memorial. Photo by Paul Vernon/AFP/Getty Images

Another child dead, another grievous hashtag, another police narrative that defies belief. Police in Columbus, Ohio say one of their own shot and killed 13-year-old Tyre King after he allegedly pulled a gun on them after being chased down an alley; police had been called after a report of an armed robbery that netted $10. Police reports say officers arriving at the scene saw three people "matching the suspects' descriptions" - ie: they had black skin. When police tried to speak to them - unsurprisingly, given.....everything - they ran away. "Officers followed the males to the alley (and) attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband," the police statement said. "One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times."


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The shooter was identified as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran of the force who had previously shot and killed two other people; he has been put on one week's administrative leave. Police said he and the other officers will receive "mandated psychological support counseling" and can take leave time "to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience." Inexplicably, none of the officers were wearing body cameras. After the shooting, police realized the "gun" was in fact a BB gun "almost identical" to a gun - or in the words of Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs, “It 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.”

Her comments echo the appalling rhetoric that has accompanied yet another killing seemingly impossible to defend. In her press conference, Jacobs repeatedly referred to Tyre as a "young man," and noted that, despite the "tragedy" of his death for police, “Unfortunately, because of the things that are happening out on the streets, it becomes necessary at times to defend themselves.” Blue Lives Matter supporters likewise jumped to declare the death of a kid wielding a fake gun "a clear-cut justified shooting" despite the outrage of "agitators," adding, "The officer appeared to have had no choice after (King’s) series of foolish decisions." Online, some comments chose to blame his parents, or his having a toy gun, or the possibility he'd stolen $10, which obviously warranted summary execution, and never mind Dylan Roof.

Tyre's killing - his death prompted two hashtags when, in a final indignity, the media at first spelled his name wrong - came the same day as the announcement of a $1.9 million wrongful death settlement with the family of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell in July 2015 after a traffic stop. It also came in the wake of over 2,000 police shootings since Ferguson that have raised many questions about police conduct, accountability, racism and militarization, but resulted in almost no findings of wrongdoing. Now there are more questions, like why a 13-year-old eight-grader who loved hockey, soccer, football and gymnastics would pull a fake gun on police officers chasing him - an act his family has termed, "out of his normal character," and which one of his friends with him at the time flatly denies. Noting that "multiple witnesses... do not corroborate the current narrative," a lawyer for Tyre's family warns of by-now grotesquely familiar discrepancies, arguing, "The 'facts' being discussed in the media are not facts at all....We do not know what he did or did not do." What we do know, says Columbus' mayor, is that America is obsessed with guns and violence, a 13-year-old is senselessly dead, and "there is something wrong in this country."

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