Once again, another Black child was shot by the police. Only this time, the victim lived to tell his story as body camera footage showed that an Oklahoma City police officer shot the teenager less than a second after giving him a command.
In March, 14-year-old Lorenzo Clerkley Jr. was playing with friends at an abandoned house when officers received a call about suspected armed robbers. Clerkley and his friends brought airsoft and BB guns with them to the house. In recently released body camera footage, popping sounds can be heard in the background.
The officer, who was later identified as Sgt. Kyle Holcomb, can be heard saying, “I think it’s a cap gun, but they are shooting something off.” Holcomb approached a fence, which had a gap in it that gave a clear view of Clerkley, and shouted “show me your hands! Drop it!”
One-sixth of a second later, Clerkley had been shot twice. Once near his hip and in his leg.
“He didn’t give me time to do anything,” Clerkley said. “I came out the window, jumped, heard a voice and he just started firing.”
According to the Washington Post, Clerkley had no idea he had been shot until he had urinated on himself and saw a bullet hole in his pants. He was then dragged over broken glass to the front of the house where Holcomb checked his wounds and said, “You’re okay. You’re not gonna die.”
Following the shooting, police claimed that they found a BB gun that Clerkley dropped after he was shot, but the eighth-grader said he did not have a gun on him nor around him when he was shot. The Oklahoma County District Attorney declined to file charges, and the police department was awaiting the results of an internal investigation.
Though no criminal charges were pending against Holcomb, Clerkley’s family released a statement criticizing the officer for not giving the teenager time to even comply with his commands.
“It is well established that police officers must give citizens sufficient time to comply with commands before using deadly force,” the family said in a statement. “Here, Sergeant Holcomb did not give Lorenzo any time to comply with his commands, and did not have probable cause to believe that Lorenzo posed a threat of serious physical harm to anyone when he began shooting.”
This case mirrors that of Tamir Rice. In 2014, Rice, a 12-year-old child who was playing with an airsoft gun, was shot and killed at a Cleveland park after police received a 911 call. When police arrived on the scene, Rice was shot within seconds, the police cruiser was still in motion. Officer Timothy Loehmann was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing but was later fired after it was found out that he had not disclosed that he had been let go from a previous department because he was found to be unfit to be an officer. A Cleveland police union appealed the city of Cleveland’s decision to terminate Loehmann from the department in March.
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