Originally published on February 15, 2015, at NationofChange.org
LAPD officers shot a 15-year-old student on Tuesday morning because his friend was playing with a replica gun as they were walking to school. Although the police claim the officers issued multiple warnings to drop the gun, nearby residents do not recall hearing any warnings before the shooting.
Around 7:45am on Tuesday, 15-year-old Jamar Nicholson and a small group of friends were walking to school dressed in their uniforms and khaki pants. As they entered an alley, one of Jamar’s friends pulled out a BB gun. Following up an investigation in the area, LAPD Criminal Gang Homicide Group officers noticed the replica gun mistaking it for a real firearm.
According to a police statement, the officers ordered Jamar’s friend to drop the weapon multiple times before opening fire. But nearby residents who heard the gunshots reportedly did not hear the officers issue any warnings. A moment before a bullet entered his upper back, Jamar heard someone yelling, “Freeze!”
Instead of dropping the BB gun, Jamar’s friend allegedly turned toward the officers. Although Jamar was not holding the replica gun, the officers recklessly opened fired shooting him in the back. None of their bullets hit Jamar’s friend, who had been standing next to him.
“At that point, he turned toward the officer pointing the gun and now, in defense of his own life, feeling threatened, the officer fired,” rationalized Capt. Peter Whittingham, commander of the Criminal Gang Homicide Group.
At first, the police reported a shooting involving a gunman who was taken into custody. Details later surfaced that the pistol was a replica gun with an orange tip on the end of the barrel. And Jamar had not been holding the toy gun when the officer shot him.
The Los Angeles Fire Department Paramedics had responded to the scene, placed Jamar onto a gurney, and handcuffed him to the gurney before transporting him to a local hospital. Doctors treated the wound but could not remove the bullet, which almost hit Jamar’s spine. A detective finally unlocked his handcuffs before releasing Jamar without any charges.
Although no one has been charged with the shooting, the teenager holding the BB gun could possibly be charged with brandishing a replica weapon in the vicinity of a police officer. According to law enforcement officials, Force Investigation Division investigators are conducting an investigation into the officer-involved shooting.
After releasing Jamar from the hospital, an LAPD captain apologized to Jamar’s mother. With a department-issued bullet still lodged in his upper back, Jamar declared he wants a direct apology from the officer who shot him. Jamar stated, “I don’t want to see him again… but I do want that sorry.”
Jamar is the fourth person shot by police in recent months mistaking a toy gun for an actual weapon. On November 22, Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing with an airsoft pistol with the orange safety indicator removed.
On September 23, a Terrebonne sheriff’s deputy shot 14-year-old Cameron Tillman to death as he opened the front door. Although police claim Tillman had been holding a BB gun in his hand, witnesses say the toy gun was on the table behind him when the deputy shot Tillman multiple times.
On August 5, Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow gunned down John Crawford III inside an Ohio Walmart after a customer named Ronald Ritchie called 911 falsely claiming that Crawford was aiming a rifle at other customers. Video surveillance revealed Crawford was holding a BB gun that he had found inside the store and was not aiming it at anyone.
Unlike the recent shootings, Jamar is the only victim who survived.