Over the weekend, the family of 13-year-old Tyre King gathered to say goodbye to the young middle school student with a celebration of his life.
It’s been less than two weeks since Tyre was fatally shot by a Columbus, Ohio police officer during a confrontation after police claimed the teen reached for a gun in his waistband. A medical examiner has since offered evidence to dispute the officers claims, concluding that Tyre was likely running away when he was shot, after looking at his body following the initial autopsy. Additionally, another teen by the name of Demetrius Braxton, who was allegedly with Tyre at the time of the shooting, also says police opened fire when Tyre began to run away.
It was later revealed that the weapon in question was only an air pistol that fires BB pellets, not an actual gun with bullets.
ESSENCE recently spoke with King family attorney Chanda Brown of the Walton Brown Law Firm to discuss how the family is holding up, what they’d like the public to know about Tyre and what next steps are in seeking justice for the life of yet another Black teen whose life was cut short by a police officer’s bullet. Brown says the family wants the public to know that the story being circulated by police isn’t consistent with what they know of who Tyre was.
“There is a young boy that was killed and the actions that the police department has described — saying he was reaching for a gun — the family is convinced that those those actions are completely outside of Tyre’ s character,” Brown told ESSENCE.
“It’s not something that they believe Tyre would do and without having video of the actual shooting, it’s hard for anyone to be able to say, definitively, that he pulled this gun. That’s why he hired a medical examiner. His wounds were consistent with him running away when he was shot and more consistent with what the family knows about his character, which is that he wouldn’t pull a BB gun in fight with an officer who had a real gun.”
Brown also revealed that the person currently being associated with Tyre as his “friend” who was present at the time of the shooting isn’t someone with whom the family is familiar.
“They keep calling this Demetrius person Tyre’s ‘friend.’ But, again, this someone who is outside of Tyre’s normal character and the family doesn’t have any evidence that he is a friend. It’s being pushed out that they were together at the time of the incident but again, that’s coming from Demetrius. It’s just hard to say that this was his buddy or his best friend when the family has no knowledge of that.”
As those who were closest Tyre continue to deal with the aftermath of his senseless death and ask that the public withhold judgement until more sufficient evidence is presented, Brown says the family has yet to receive any type of apology from the police officers involved. Ultimately, though, she says apologies from the police aren’t a part of the end goal.
“They are just devastated. He was loved,” Brown continued. “He was a regular 13-year-old who had three sisters and a little baby brother and everyone is just distraught right now. At this point, they want justice, not apologies.”
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Attorney Brown says Tyre was best described by his family as a jokester and a fun-loving young man. He played football and hockey as a kid and had just returned from vacation with his family before that fateful night on September 14. Brown says Tyre’s father remembers their last moment together as one where Tyre was finishing his social studies homework and preparing for school the next day.
“I think one of his school teachers released a story about a time when a little girl in the classroom was being bullied by the other kids and Tyre reached out to her and brought her over to his table to try to make her feel more comfortable. His family says that’s just the type of person that he was. He has a charismatic personality that people kind of just gravitated towards him.”
Although little additional evidence has been shared with the public since the initial reports of the shooting thus far, attorney Brown says there is plenty more to come that will shed light on what really happened the night Tyre was killed.
“The investigation is ongoing and there are additional witnesses and facts that haven’t been shared with the media. We haven’t had any conversations with the police department as far as their investigations but, I’m sure that they are doing their job as well on their end. However, that’s an issue as well because they’ll be basically investigating themselves as far as what happened with the shooting. That’s why we’re doing a separate investigation to see what witnesses and other evidence we can find.”
Following Tyre’s homegoing service, attorney Brown says her main focus is on seeking justice for the teen by doing all she can to ensure a fair, unbiased investigation into the shooting.
“I think the next step is to continue with the investigation. Here in Franklin County, there’s a history of issues with these officer-involved shootings and the prosecution siding with them,” she says.
“In Franklin County, there hasn’t been an indictment of an officer following a shooting in over 18 years and that gives the community a sense of mistrust and skepticism following these types of investigations. I’m actually representing another young man who was killed by the police here on June 6 and this whole summer, we’ve been pushing with the police department to call for this independent investigation into that shooting. The next step for the family here is to continue to call for the independent investigation just because the track record here doesn’t give the community much of a sense of trust in the system.”
“So, we’re going to continue to be active in calling for that and just wanting to seek justice and hold the person that’s responsible accountable for this killing.”