A Maryland State Police trooper responding to two “suspicious person” calls fatally shot a 16-year-old who allegedly threatened the officer with a knife and what turned out to be an airsoft gun, authorities said Tuesday.
What are the details?
Superintendent Woodrow Jones said during a new conference that the initial 911 caller in Leonardtown reported saying they believed the “guy” had a gun, before hanging up on the dispatcher. The second caller gave a street address for the individual purportedly acting suspiciously.
Jones said that a witness described the teen, Peyton Ham, standing in a driveway in “a shooting stance, pointing a gun at the trooper” when he arrived alone. Ham allegedly told the officer he also had a knife. The officer then shot the teen, wounding him.
According to Jones, another witness claimed “Ham then pulled out a knife and tried to get up,” the Associated Press reported. The trooper says he told Ham to drop the knife, but the teen allegedly refused, so the officer shot him a second time.
Fellow officers who later responded to assist at the scene rendered aid to Ham, who was taken to a hospital and later died.
According to the AP, both the trooper and Ham are white. There is no body camera footage or dashcam footage of the incident.
Online observers drew a correlation between the Maryland shooting and the 2014 high-profile death of the black 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed by an officer in Cleveland while holding what was later found to be an airsoft pistol.
Rice was shot “within two seconds” of officers arriving and seeing the child at Cudell Park, while responding to a report of a man with a gun. The pre-teen’s replica gun was missing the telltale orange tip that is typically affixed to the non-lethal toy guns.
Officer Timothy Loehmann, who killed Rice, did not face charges in the incident that officials called “a perfect storm of human error.”
Columbia University associate professor John McWhorter tweeted of the Maryland shooting, “I have often written that we simply never hear about whites killed by cops in the same ways as blacks. But I’ve never quite known of a parallel to one case: what happened to Tamir Rice – till now.”
McWhorter received mixed reviews and further calls for discussion over drawing the connection.
One person wrote, “You’re ignoring that the police initially claimed that Rice pulled a gun on them. It was only the video footage that proved the police were lying. In this case there is no video footage and for some reason you’re backing the police version without any verification.”
Another added, “Also, now having read this story (assuming it’s true which is not a given yet) this person is not similar to Tamir Rice at all, his having a knife on him and pointing the rifle at the cop. Tamir Rice was a kid whiling away his time. Cops pulled up and shot him in a millisecond.”
Someone else replied, “I agree that knowing the details after the fact we can see a difference. But how is it different from the officers perspective when they have a gun of any kind pointed at them?”