On September 14, 2016, Columbus Division of Police officer Bryan Mason shot and killed Black 13-year-old Tyre King. On Friday (May 19), a grand jury declined to indict Mason, who is White. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the jury proceedings lasted two days and included appearances from 15 to 17 witnesses.
Family attorneys with Walton and Brown issued a statement following the decision. In it, the family says it is “saddened and completely dissatisfied with how the entire investigation was handled by the City of Columbus, the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office,” and alleges bias in how evidence and witnesses were presented to the jury.
From that statement:
On Monday, May 15, 2017, Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Assistant Prosecutors Sheryl Pritchard and James Lowe met with Tyre’s parents and grandparents along with attorneys Sean Walton and Chanda Brown, as requested by the family. In that meeting, Prosecutor O’Brien explained that the prosecution’s approach in Tyre King’s case was to rely on the evidence it was presented from the Columbus Division of Police. The family found that information to be extremely disheartening.
Attorney Brown notes, “I asked Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Lowe, and Ms. Pritchard what other evidence they would be using for the grand jury besides what was handed to them by the Columbus Division of Police. I explained that using evidence from the Columbus Division of Police was akin to taking fruit from the ‘poisonous tree.’ They could not produce any evidence that was not obtained by the Columbus Police. I find that troubling, to say the least.”
There was no attempt to seek an interview with Officer Mason and there was no independent agency used to evaluate the credibility of the evidence and witness statements obtained or to secure additional evidence. After hearing the prosecution’s approach, the family, once again, requested Prosecutor O’Brien to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to properly investigate and present this case to a grand jury. Prosecutor O’Brien explained he did not feel there was a conflict of interest or a need for a third-party investigation. The request for a special prosecutor was flatly declined.
As we reported back in September, officers were responding to a report of an armed $10 robbery at the time of the fatal shooting. Officers said they approached three people who fit the description provided by the robbery victim. Two of the people—including King—ran, and King allegedly pulled out what officers say they later discovered to be BB gun. King was shot several times and died at a local hospital.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that this was Mason’s fourth shooting, and that he is now on narcotics duty.
Jason Pappas, president of Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, told press that “based on the facts of the case, the grand jury got it right…. You had a robbery that had just occurred, a fleeing, armed suspect and the officer was justified in protecting his life and the lives of the public.”
People’s Justice Project organizer Tammy Fournier-Alsaada disagrees, but remains encouraged to fight. She spoke to a group of people assembled at a local church on Friday following the announcement.
“This is just one step in a long road. And it stings. We’re human beings and it hurts, and it stings, and it’s wrong. I’m tired. I’m tired. But we must fight on,” she said, per The Columbus Dispatch.