By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) - Columbus, Ohio, officials on Friday evening will discuss the shooting death this week of a black 13-year-old boy by a white police officer responding to an armed robbery call, to try to maintain calm, city officials said.
Mayor Andrew Ginther and Police Chief Kim Jacobs will answer questions "to facilitate healthy dialogue during a painful community tragedy," said a statement from Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which is hosting the event. The officials will also march with members of the African-American church.
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"It's a very difficult time for the city, and we want to make sure we're available to listen and answer questions," city spokeswoman Robin Davis said.
Officer Bryan Mason shot Tyre King multiple times in a Columbus alley on Wednesday evening after the teenager drew what appeared to be a handgun, police said. It was later determined to be a pellet-shooting BB gun.
Police were responding to reports of an armed robbery. The victim told officers a group of males had demanded money, threatening him with a gun.
Soon afterward, officers found three males, including King, matching the descriptions of the suspects, police said.
While trying to apprehend King, Mason shot the teenager after he pulled out the BB gun, police said.
King's family said in a statement released by a Columbus law firm it retained to investigate the shooting that witness accounts conflicted with the officer's version of the events.
An internal police probe of the shooting and a separate investigation of the reported robbery are under way. A grand jury will ultimately decide whether Mason will face criminal charges, police said.
King's death comes nearly two years after the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was black, by a white Cleveland police officer responding to reports of a suspect with a gun in a city park.
An investigation revealed Rice had a replica gun that shoots plastic pellets.
Rice's death became a rallying point for the Black Lives Matter movement and was one of a number of deaths that led to nationwide demonstrations against the use of excessive force against minorities, especially young black men, by police.
Columbus has remained calm since King's death. Family and friends held a prayer vigil on Thursday near where the boy was shot.
"My eyes are still swollen, and my head still hurts," the Columbus Dispatch quoted King’s 13-year-old sister, Marshay Caldwell, as saying. "He’s really not coming back."
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)