Earlier this month, a 16-year-old was shot and killed by a Columbus, Ohio police SWAT officer after officials say he robbed an undercover cop at gunpoint.
According to Columbus Dispatch, the fatal shooting occurred during a sting operation in the 1300 block of Mount Vernon Avenue, near the intersection of North Champion Avenue – the second shooting during a similar undercover operation in as many days.
In the December 7 incident, according to police, officials launched an operation to put an end to a wave of robberies in the city, and used social media to meet up with the 16-year-old victim, identified as Julius Tate Jr., to purchase items he’d offered for sale. But, when officials met with Tate, he allegedly pulled out a gun to rob the officer, which prompted SWAT team officer, Eric Richard, to shoot him.
Five days later, Tate’s family refuted the police account and accused the Columbus officers of shooting Tate “in cold blood.” In fact, according to the family’s attorney, Tate didn’t even have a gun on him to rob the officer at gunpoint.
“They shot him on the street, then came back to the house and got a gun from the house,” attorney Byron Potts said. “He did not have a gun on him at the time this happened.”
But now, upon the family’s threat to file an unlawful death suit against the officers with evidence of a sworn affidavit from an eyewitness, police placed the blame on Tate’s girlfriend, Masonique Saunders, 16, and charged her with murder and aggravated robbery.
According to the publication, police said Saunders was at the scene at the time of the fatal incident, and claimed she “played a role” in the robberies, which in turn, leaves her liable of Tate’s death.
“Under what historically has been called ‘felony murder,’ which means that you’re still responsible for a murder if you cause the death of another as an approximate result of committing certain kids of serious offenses,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters. “In a situation where say there’s two people involved in a robbery, they go in to rob and then police shoot somebody, and police are actually the ones who did the direct killing, we still say the felons were approximately causing that death and should be held responsible under this felony murder doctrine,” another said, according to The Root.
The fatal shooting came just two days after police shot and critically injured 18-year-old Kyler Collier in a similar sting operation, in which officials say they recovered a gun that belonged to the victim. In the meantime, the officers in both incidents are on administrative leave, pending investigation.