Police probe, grand jury leave teen's family 'dissatisfied'

Columbus officer killed Tyre King in September
Police probe, grand jury leave teen's family 'dissatisfied'
Posted at 3:44 PM, May 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-20 15:44:08-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The family of a black 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a white Columbus police officer after a suspected robbery last year said it is "completely dissatisfied" with how the investigation was handled after a grand jury voted not to indict the officer.

The Franklin County grand jury was considering whether Officer Bryan Mason should be charged criminally in the September 2016 shooting of Tyre King. Police have said Mason shot the teen after he pulled a BB gun that looked like a real firearm from his waistband during a foot pursuit.

Attorney Sean Walton issued a statement on behalf Tyre's family after the grand jury's decision on Friday.

"Tyre's family is saddened and completely dissatisfied with how the entire investigation was handled by the City of Columbus, the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office," the statement said. "The deliberate indifference for the lives of its' citizens displayed by the City of Columbus and the pain Tyre's family has dealt with since his death was only exacerbated by the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office's apparent bias in presenting evidence and witnesses to the grand jury."

Demonstrators gathered Friday night about a block from where Tyre was shot, calling for more accountability in the justice system and more involvement from elected leaders.

They sat silently for 13 seconds -- one second for each year of the teen's life.

A county coroner said Tyre died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso and the manner of death was homicide, which is standard in the county when a person is shot, regardless of the circumstances.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien released a statement Friday that presents a version of the shooting and details the grand jury process. The statement provides no opinion from O'Brien on the grand jury's decision that Mason was justified in killing Tyre.

"Officer Mason stated that King was removing the BB pistol, that appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun, from his waistband when Officer Mason shot him three times," the statement said. "The BB gun was recovered on the ground at the scene several feet from where King laid."

O'Brien said the grand jury first met on Thursday. His statement said a judge gave the grand jurors instructions on police use of deadly force "derived directly from U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions." O'Brien said it's his policy that all fatal police shootings are presented to grand juries.

Walton said he and Tyre's parents and grandparents met with O'Brien and two assistant county prosecutors on Monday. According to Walton, O'Brien told them that the prosecution's approach before the grand jury would be to rely on evidence from Columbus police, which Walton said the family found "extremely disheartening."

Walton has argued that because Tyre was shot three times on the left side, the results indicate he was running away at the time and not posing a threat to police. A medical examiner hired by the family reached the same conclusion.

O'Brien said a grand jury only inquires into whether or not a crime has been committed and in this incident whether any degree of unlawful criminal homicide occurred.

Mason was just two days into a new assignment when he responded to a robbery call in the city's Olde Town East neighborhood. That's where he encountered a 19-year-old and Tyre, who fled, leading to the chase and shooting. Mason's personnel file is full of commendations. He had been involved in three previous shootings, including one that was fatal, and was cleared of wrongdoing each time.

The 19-year-old man with Tyre the night of the shooting pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in November and agreed to testify against others as part of a plea deal. Demetrious Braxton told The Columbus Dispatch that Tyre had a BB gun that looked like a real firearm and wanted to rob someone.

The shooting has been a flashpoint in and around Columbus and spurred protests, including disruptions at Columbus City Council meetings. It added to a list of killings of black males by police that have attracted national attention.