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Anatomy of a tragedy: Police say boy with BB gun fatally shot by officers at high school

San Diego police are investigating after two officers fatally shot a 15-year-old boy Saturday morning as he stood in front of Torrey Pines High School. Police say he was holding a BB gun.

Here’s how the shooting went down:


AN EARLY MORNING DISPATCH

A mysterious caller

Police received a 911 call at 3:27 a.m. asking for a welfare check, said police homicide Lt. Mike Holden. The caller said there was a kid in front of the school who someone should probably check on and stated the person was not armed, the lieutenant said.

Police believe the caller was the boy himself, Holden said.

According to police radio traffic, a dispatcher asked two officers to check the welfare of someone at the school. The person was described as a white male, 15, of medium build, wearing a gray shirt and black pants. Officers said they were there about a minute later.

An investigator at the scene where a 15-year-old was shot and killed.
An investigator at the scene where a 15-year-old was shot and killed. (Howard Lipin San Diego Union-Tribune)

THE CONFRONTATION

‘Shots fired’

The two officers arrived at the school on Del Mar Heights Road about the same time and saw the teen. As they got out of their patrol cars to speak with him, he “pulled a handgun that was concealed in his waistband and pointed it at one of the officers,” Holden said.

Both officers drew their weapons and told the boy to drop the gun, but he continued to point the gun and walk toward the one officer, Holden said.

The teen ignored additional commands, and the officers, fearing for their safety, both fired, the lieutenant said.

The teen was struck several times.

A dispatcher acknowledged “shots fired” and asked if any officers were injured. One officer answered “negative” but said paramedics are needed “now.” He said he and another officer were doing CPR. Another two or three minutes passed and an officer noted that CPR was still in progress.

A mother and daughter pay their respects at a memorial of flowers that is starting to grow in front of Torrey Pines High School near where a 9th-grader at the school was shot and killed by San Diego Police officers.
A mother and daughter pay their respects at a memorial of flowers that is starting to grow in front of Torrey Pines High School near where a 9th-grader at the school was shot and killed by San Diego Police officers. (Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

THE DISCOVERY

He was brandishing a BB gun

The officers immediately began life-saving measures, and the boy was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where he died, Holden said.

The boy’s gun remained at the scene to be processed as evidence. Police later determined that the gun was a “semi-automatic BB air pistol,” Holden said.

A small memorial of flowers and notes began to grow at the scene by Saturday afternoon.

The teen was a freshman at the Carmel Valley school and lived in the neighborhood. Police officials are declining to name him because he was a juvenile.

A memorial of flowers is starting to grow in front of Torrey Pines High School
A memorial of flowers is starting to grow in front of Torrey Pines High School (Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

THE INVESTIGATION

Captured on body cameras?

Police are now investigating the shooting, and the community is in mourning.

Both officers had activated their body-worn cameras at some point and there is video of the incident for investigators to review.

The names of the officers involved are expected to be released in the next few days, per department protocol.

The officers have been on the force for 28 years and four years. One of the officers is on the department’s Juvenile Services Team, Holden said.

A member of the San Diego Police Department investigates and documents the scene.
A member of the San Diego Police Department investigates and documents the scene. (Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Davis and Littlefield write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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