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Tamir Rice shooting: Call for US replica gun law change

Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot dead by police officers in the US city of Cleveland - 23 November 2014 Image copyright Other
Image caption Tamir Rice was shot by police on Saturday afternoon and died in hospital early on Sunday morning

The fatal shooting by US police of a 12-year-old boy brandishing a replica gun in a playground has prompted calls for the guns to be more clearly marked.

Tamir Rice was shot twice by police in Cleveland after he allegedly failed to obey an order to raise his hands.

The city's police chief said it was a "split second" decision and the gun was indistinguishable from a real firearm.

A local politician says she intends to introduce legislation forcing fake guns sold in Ohio to be brightly coloured.

An official investigation is under way and both police officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

A lawyer representing the boy's family said they would be carrying out their own investigation into what happened.

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Media captionA recording reveals the 911 caller did not know if the weapon was real

Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece said a new law regulating replica guns was needed in order to "prevent future deadly confrontations".

The legislation would require all BB guns, air rifles and "airsoft" guns sold in Ohio to be brightly coloured or have prominent fluorescent strips.

Police said the orange safety indicator on the replica gun Tamir Rice was carrying, which resembled a semi-automatic pistol, had been removed.

Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams said his force would "gain knowledge" from the tragedy and be "proactive and diligent" in teaching children about the dangers of firearms "whether they are real or fake".

"Guns are not toys and the replica in this instance was indistinguishable from that of a real firearm," he added.

Deputy police chief Ed Tomba said one of the two officers involved shot the boy after he pulled the gun from the waistband of his trousers.

He did not make any verbal threats nor point the gun towards the officers, the police added.

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Media captionTamir Rice had a "baby face" according to his family's lawyer Timothy Kucharski

Surveillance video of the shooting is "very clear" about what happened, Mr Tomba said, adding it would not be made public at this stage.

He said the officer who fired the shots was "distraught".

"Our officers at times are required to make critical decisions in a split second," Mr Williams told reporters. "Unfortunately this is one of those times."

911 call

An audio recording of the 911 emergency call made by the man who reported the incident reveals he said the pistol was "probably a fake" on two occasions, before adding he was not sure whether it was "real or not".

But Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police association, said the two officers at the scene were not told about the caller's comments.

One of the officers involved was in his first year on the local force, the other had more than 10 years of experience.

Tamir Rice's father, Gregory Henderson, said that police should have used a stun gun - or Taser - to subdue his son rather than shoot him.

"Why not Tase him?" he was quoted as asking by "[They] 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," he said.

Mr Henderson said Tamir was a "respectful young man" who "minded his elders", adding that it was a mystery to him why his son allegedly failed to follow police orders.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The replica "airsoft" handgun that was taken from Tamir Rice by the Cleveland police officers at the scene

Timothy Kucharski, a lawyer for Tamir's family, told the BBC he would be conducting an investigation, in "parallel" to the police, in order to establish exactly what happened.

"If in fact we determine that Tamir's rights are violated, we will proceed with civil action against the police," he said.

Cleveland's police force has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, most notably over a high-profile car chase in 2012 that ended with two deaths and officers firing 137 shots.

On Monday, hacker collective Anonymous said it had forced Cleveland's city website offline in response to the shooting.

City spokesman Daniel Ball confirmed the site was down and said staff were adding extra security measures before restoring the website.

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