COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal jury has found that a white Ohio police officer did not violate a Black teenager’s civil rights when he shot and killed the boy while responding to a reported armed robbery.
Jurors reached their verdict Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by Tyre King’s grandmother. It challenged the police account of the shooting, alleging that the 13-year-old’s death resulted from excessive force, racial discrimination and a failure by the police department to properly investigate and discipline officers for racially motivated or unconstitutional behavior.
Columbus officer Bryan Mason shot King in the head and torso on Sept. 14, 2016, as the teen ran from police and after King reached for what police later discovered was a BB gun in his waistband, authorities have said. The gun, found at the scene, was designed to look like a real firearm and equipped with a laser sight.
The suit also named the city and its police department as defendants, but a federal judge ruled last summer that there is no evidence the city and the police department violated Tyre’s civil rights, meaning they could not be held legally liable.
The family’s lawsuit cited witnesses who said Mason used a racial slur after firing and that the BB gun Tyre reportedly had wasn’t visible.
Mason, who has said he feared a “gunfight,” contended that he acted reasonably to protect himself and denied having directed a slur toward the teens. A grand jury decided not to bring charges against him.
Sean Walton, a lawyer for King’s family, said that they respected the jury’s decision, adding that the panel “was given a hard decision they should have never been faced with.”
But in the statement issued Thursday, Walton also sharply criticized how the city handled the matter, saying officials “used every tool at their disposal to avoid being held accountable for killing a child.” He called on the city “to do what it takes to start protecting the people of this city and stop traumatizing families, witnesses and those who have the courage to speak truth.”
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein thanked the jury for its efforts.
“It is sad and difficult when any life is cut short, especially that of a 13-year-old like Tyre King. We thank the judge and jury for taking the time to hear and understand the facts of this case, and we respect their decision,” Klein said.