What happens when police discover a 12-year-old African-American boy playing with a toy gun? They shoot him down with little to no hesitation. What happens when two white boys are caught fiddling with a BB gun? They’re forced to write an essay on the Black boy who got shot.
A magistrate judge ordered two boys to perform community service and write an essay on the death of Tamir Rice after they were caught playing with BB guns in a Parma, Ohio park, Cleveland.com reports. Both of the boys, aged 12 and 15, were slapped with a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Their incident is eerily similar to that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a Black boy shot dead by police at a Cleveland park for playing with what appeared to be a real gun.
According to Cleveland.com, lawyers for the two boys attempted to have the charges dropped, but Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Linda Gaines Herman objected to the request during an arraignment Friday in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. Their lawyers tried to bar media from the courtroom as well.
“We had a young boy playing with a gun and the results were disastrous for that family and for the community as a whole,” Herman told the court in regards to Tamir’s death. “We have an obligation to have a dialogue about something as simple as this and how it can go from simple to tragic in a very short period of time.”
On Feb. 21, police responded to a call of two kids, possibly teens, playing with guns at a local park. Surveillance video captured footage of the boys, who are brothers, surrendering to authorities without incident.
According to Black Matters, Magistrate Judge Je’Nine Nickerson asked if the boys knew who Tamir Rice was, to which they both responded ‘yes.’
“It is a very fine line when people have to make split-second decisions as to what is a BB gun and what is a gun,” Nickerson said. “When a police officer has to respond, in this particular climate, you are putting yourself at risk. You have to understand that your actions have consequences.”
Cleveland.com reports that the 15-year-old must pay over $150 in court fees while his younger brother will also pay around $150. They each will be required to write an essay for the judge explaining the similarities and differences between their case and that of Tamir Rice.
Attorney Thomas Robinson, who is representing the older brother, said his client “has a much deeper understanding about what happened” and regrets his actions.
“[He] understands that something as innocent as boys playing with BB guns could cause a significant amount of alarm, and put not only others, but the boys who have those BB guns in danger,” Edward Borkowski, the 12-year-old’s lawyer also explained to the court. “Going through this process, coming to the court certainly has had an impact on him.”
The boys’ lax punishment is a stark contrast to the price Tamir paid for the same actions — a price that calls into question the perceived innocence of Black boys versus white boys.
According to Cleveland.com, the two brothers are due back in court Aug. 19, when Judge Nickerson will decide whether to dismiss the charges or find the boys delinquent or not delinquent.