PHOENIX (AP) — Police in a Phoenix suburb say a burglary suspect shot to death by an officer was a 14-year-old boy carrying a replica gun. Authorities say officers in the city of Tempe reported a suspect burglarizing a car Tuesday and that he ran away holding what appeared to be a handgun.
During the chase, police say he turned toward the officers. One officer perceived that as a threat and shot the suspect, who died at a hospital. Police said Wednesday that the teen had a replica 1911 airsoft gun in his possession, which they determined he had taken from vehicle along with some other items.
They say the shooting was captured on the officer’s body camera. The police department did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press for access to the video. The name of the teen and the officer who opened fire haven’t been released.
But the ABC15 Arizona station interviewed a man and a woman identified as the boy’s brother and mother, who said they wanted police to explain what happened. The boy’s brother Jason Gonzalez said, “A police officer has a Taser gun right? Why not shoot a Taser at him? He sees a young boy, my brother wouldn’t shoot. I know he wouldn’t shoot.”
Speaking through a Spanish-English interpreter, the teen’s mother Sandra Gonzalez said: “If they want to tarnish my son, they are wrong.” “Apart from the fact that they killed him, they want to destroy him,” she said. “No. I won’t allow it, I want justice.” A Facebook page believed to be the teen’s shows photographs of a baby-faced boy with a peach-fuzz mustache, a few snaps with relatives and friends and a big, green truck. Friends of the family were putting together a GoFundMe page to pay for the teen’s funeral costs.
The department said it will conduct its investigation in conjunction with the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, as is customary in officer-involved shootings. A self-described socialist group rallied in Tempe to draw attention to the case.
“We want to bring an end to the police brutality in Maricopa County and lock up killer cops,” said activist Alexia Isais. “We are demanding that police be held accountable for the killings they are committing, mostly against unarmed, marginalized people.” A vigil was held Thursday outside the Tempe Police headquarters.
Since the beginning of the year, there has been at least one other police shooting that killed a teen in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest. Earlier this month, a Phoenix police officer shot and killed a 19-year-old Jacob Michael Harris after surveillance officers reportedly saw him and three others carry out an armed robbery. Police say they were watching the group because they were suspects in several other robberies.
Also this month, an officer in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria shot and wounded a 17-year-old boy after getting a call about a robbery at an auto supply store. Officers said the boy had a gun. He was shot in the shoulder.