People’s Justice Project Statement on the Death of Tyre King
Contact: Tammy Alsaada, 614-623-5368; Amber Evans, 614-634-1585
Last night 13 year-old Tyre King, allegedly carrying a toy gun, was fatally shot by a Columbus police officer. At today’s press conference, Mayor Ginther, Police Chief Jacobs, and Public Safety Director Pettis touted Columbus as the safest big city in America. Our question for them is, safest for whom?
This summer, Columbus has lost several young Black men and children at the hands of the police. Even one is too many. Tyre’s death raises many questions. Even if his toy gun had been real, Ohio is an open carry state. What training was provided for police who knew they would be encountering people with guns after open carry legislation passed? Are the police opening fire on every person they encounter with a gun? In other communities, are people exercising this right and not dying? So far, the only deaths we have witnessed are Black children and young men. Also, what de-escalation training do Columbus police receive? Why are they shooting first and asking questions later?
Tyre’s blood is on the hands of our local, state, and national leaders. And Tyre’s blood is only the latest to be spilled. Kids keep getting killed and our communities feel less and less safe. We have repeatedly asked our leaders to proactively deal with these issues. Organizations in Ohio and #BlackLivesMatter groups across the country have been demanding justice for far too long. In 2014, leaders of Ohio Student Association went to Ron O’Brien after the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice to begin a dialogue on these issues. Nothing happened. In 2015 we went to the Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, and Ohio created a taskforce around policing. Last night proved that the taskforce was window dressing. In 2016, we went to Ron O’Brien’s office again after the fatal shooting of Henry Green. Nothing happened. Last night, we hosted a candidates forum on public safety and prosecutor accountability with a larger coalition called the Columbus People’s Partnership. Ron O’Brien was invited to talk with the community about preventing situations just like this, but he declined to attend. At the same time, a boy was dying in a Columbus street at the hands of the police.
For more than two years, we have been calling for an overhaul of our broken criminal justice system. We’re reiterating these demands today. We’re calling for:
· Reforms to the flawed grand jury process that consistently indicts Columbus citizens while letting police involved in fatal shootings go unindicted;
· Independent prosecutors to investigate police-involved shootings so police are not investigating themselves;
· Reinvestment of public resources from overly aggressive police tactics to proactive strategies–like restorative justice and trauma recovery–proven to work in partnership with our communities to make them safer for all.
Our elected officials must address this systemic crisis now, from our state attorney general to our local officials–the mayor, the safety director, the prosecutor, and the police. Furthermore, we’re calling on the candidates for President of the United States to immediately acknowledge the nationwide crisis of police violence against communities of color and to propose concrete solutions.