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Baltimore police officers shot a 13-year-old boy in a southeast neighborhood of the city on Wednesday afternoon who was carrying a replica gun.
At a brief news conference, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said that two plainclothes detectives were driving down the street in an unmarked vehicle when they spotted the teenager with what appeared to be a firearm. After identifying themselves as police officers, the boy took off on foot with the apparent weapon in hand.
The chase went on for about 150 yards, Davis said, before one of the officers fired at the boy, wounding him non-fatally. He did not say how many shots were fired or how many times the boy was shot, but said he was shot in his "lower-extremities."
Davis noted that the boy will survive and said that he had "no reason to believe that these officers acted inappropriately in any way," adding that the fake gun was an "absolute identical replica" of a Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistol.
"He had every opportunity to stop, drop the gun, and comply with the police officer's instructions," Davis said.
Davis said the boy's mother told officials that she knew that her son had left the house with a BB gun in his hand, and told reporters that the boy's mother was questioned, not arrested, contrary to what some witnesses reported.
One bystander video purports to show the mother's arrest. In an apparently tense (and blurry) scene, a distressed woman is surrounded by police officers, who escort her into a police vehicle. One bystander remarks, "They're handcuffing her."
Davis cited a recent uptick in gun violence in explaining the law enforcement action, and stressed that the officers were simply doing their job.
"No police officer in Baltimore wants to shoot a 13-year old," Davis said. "The police officers here and elsewhere are charged by us — by our community — with going after bad guys with guns. We can't allow someone to walk down the streets in broad daylight anywhere in Baltimore with what looks to be a semi-automatic pistol in his hand."
He pointed out that people often arm themselves with replica handguns for the purpose of committing crimes, such as robberies.
Davis could not say at the time of the press conference that his officers were acting within rules of engagement. Those rules say that a cop has to genuinely fear for their life before they decide to discharge a firearm. One reporter asked if the boy ever stopped and pointed the replica firearm toward the officers. Another cited witnesses who said that the boy was on the ground at the time he was shot. Davis was unable to speak to the accuracy of those accounts.
Local investigative reporter Jayne Miller later tweeted that a witness said that they saw the boy being chased by two men and then spotted the gun, which the officers ordered him to drop. The boy did not point the gun at the officers, according to the witness, but "held it up" while yelling, "It's not real!"
The shooting took place just 15 minutes into an event in West Baltimore marking the anniversary of the riots that took place on the same day as the funeral of Freddie Gray, an unarmed man who controversially died while in police custody last year. Gray, 25, was arrested by Baltimore police over a year ago for possessing what police alleged was an illegal switchblade. He died from a broken neck while being improperly transported in a police van.
The incident also comes just days after the city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6 million to settle the federal lawsuit filed by the family of
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was playing with a replica pellet gun in public when he was shot by an officer two years ago.
Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen