A 12-YEAR-OLD has been shot dead by police in the US as he played with a fake gun in a park.
Tamir Rice, who was black, died of his wounds yesterday in hospital after being shot twice in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday.
A member of the public had phoned police saying people in the playground were scared by someone brandishing what looked like a gun.
In a recording released by officials, the caller can be heard saying: "There's a guy with a pistol…you know, it's probably fake but he's pointing it at everybody.
"I don't know if it's real or not."
The 911 responder twice asked whether the boy was black or white before dispatching officers.
When police arrived at the Cudell Recreation Center park, they told Tamir to raise his hands, deputy police chief Ed Tomba said.
When he allegedly took the replica gun from his waistband, an officer fired twice despite the fact the suspected weapon was not pointed at them and no threats were made.
The gun was an "airsoft" type replica that resembled a semi-automatic handgun. Fake weapons normally have an orange safety indicator on the muzzle but it had been removed, police said.
Cleveland police are investigating the shooting and the two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave in accordance with procedure.
Tamir's father, Gregory Henderson, told local newspaper the Cleveland Plain Dealer that his son was a "respectful" young man and said the police should have tasered him instead of using live ammunition if they felt threatened.
Referring to police, he added: "You shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don't shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body."
After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors will present the case to a grand jury, which will decide whether the officer was justified in using deadly force against the boy.
A lawyer for Tamir's family, Timothy Kucharski, said he had gone to the park with friends as normal on Saturday afternoon but did not know the details of what led to the shooting.
"We're ultimately going to find out what happened," he added.
Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said the officers involved were not told the caller thought the gun might be fake.
Tamir's death has sparked calls for new laws in Ohio to require all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in the state to be brightly marked to show they are fake.
A similar bill is being implemented in California.
It comes after another black man with an air rifle was shot dead in Ohio in August.
John Crawford III, 22, was killed after a man called 911 to report he was carrying a gun in a Wal-Mart supermarket.
Police said they believed the air rifle Crawford had picked up was a real rifle and that he didn't respond to commands to drop it but his family said he had just picked it up from a shelf while shopping.
A special grand jury concluded police officers' actions were justified and the US Department of Justice is investigating.
The latest fatal police shooting comes as a grand jury in Missouri decides whether to indict a white police officer for shooting dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.