Youth brandishing toy gun fatally shot by Ark. officer

By The Associated Press

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A 12-year-old boy who was carrying a toy gun was shot to death Friday evening by a West Memphis police officer, who apparently thought the gun was real.

Police Chief Bob Paudert said officers were on surveillance at an apartment building near a hotel about 10 p.m. when the boy appeared.

"The child had a toy pistol that looked identical to a real weapon. He did have a toy pistol with him and the officer saw it and fired shots. Two shots, I think," Paudert told the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal. "It's a very tragic and unfortunate incident that happened."

The child, whose name was not released, died at the scene, Paudert said. The officer, who was not identified, was placed on suspension with pay, pending an investigation.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed Saturday that the state police were investigating the fatal shooting of a boy by a West Memphis police officer. He did not provide further details, but said once the "use of force investigation" was completed the findings would be turned over to the local prosecutor to determine if charges are warranted.

Paudert did not immediately return a call Saturday.

According to WMC television station, there were two boys and two police officers involved in the incident. Police were in the area because of a rash of armed robberies, the station reported. West Memphis Police Assistant Chief Mike Allen said when two police officers approached the boys, the officers saw a gun.

"When the police confronted the 12-year-old and told him to drop the weapon, he made a gesture toward the officers and (they) fired," Allen said.

The other boy, a 14-year-old, was not injured.

The police chief said the officer who shot the boy has been with the department for more than 10 years. "He is taking it very hard right now," Paudert said.

Since the incident involved an officer, Paudert asked the Arkansas State Police to investigate.

"We're all saddened by the fact that this happened. But it will be thoroughly investigated by the state police," Paudert said.

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