The Columbus police officer who fatally shot a 13-year-old black boy during an armed-robbery investigation once helped save the life of another black boy the same age, police records show. He has also been involved in other shootings, including another fatality, in which he was cleared of wrongdoing.
Officer Bryan Mason, a member of the force for almost 10 years, shot Tyre King multiple times Sept. 14 after the boy ran from investigators and pulled out a BB gun that looked like a real firearm, police have said. The boy’s death has inflamed tensions over the safety of blacks in Ohio’s largest city and adds to a list of killings of black males by police that are attracting national attention.
Mason’s prior shootings have been reported by The Columbus Dispatch and information from his personnel file has been reported by WSYX-TV in Columbus. But an interview with a victim in one of the shooting cases, along with incident reports and police investigation documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, give new details and provide more insight into Mason’s history as an officer.
Mason, who is white, was honored by the department for “quick actions” that helped save the life of a 13-year-old black boy who tried to hang himself in 2012. He and another officer immediately performed CPR until medical help arrived.
Mason, 31, was put on administrative leave immediately after Tyre’s shooting – standard procedure after police shootings. His other shootings include the 2012 death of a white man holding another white man at gunpoint, two nonfatal shootings and the shooting of a dog that bit a fellow officer.
Attorneys for the boy’s family have called for an independent investigation and question whether there’s more to Mason’s involvement in other shootings.
“How many shootings is too many before the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and City of Columbus step in and ask the Department of Justice to investigate this shooting and this officer,” attorney Sean Walton said in a written statement.
The head of the local police union defends Mason, saying he did what he was trained to do under the circumstances.
There are “some very bad people in this world doing very bad things, and Bryan is not afraid to go out and address those issues to make our community safer,” said Jason Pappas, the president of the police union representing Mason. Pappas said the officer is assigned to a special team that responds to higher priorities in the city and provides support to officers on patrol.
Pappas said Thursday that Mason apparently has returned to work.
In his nearly four years as union president, Pappas said, he has not been aware of any disciplinary problems on Mason’s part. He was part of citizen complaints to the department, as is often the case with officers, according to copies of internal affairs records. In most cases, his actions were found to be within police policy.
Pappas said Mason’s shootings were all ruled justified, and he expects Tyre’s will be, too.
Columbus resident Jason Blackburn said he owes Mason his life after the officer shot and killed the man who held him at gunpoint in December 2012.
“I have five children,” Blackburn, 45, said in an interview. “And if it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have a father.”
Mason gave the suspect three chances to drop his weapon, Blackburn recalled. “I was surprised he even waited that long.”
Highlights from Mason’s personnel file, incident reports, investigation records and other police documents:
In 2009, Mason was among officers who returned fire on a white man who later killed himself. The suspect fired an AK-47 out of a window at officers after he fled from a traffic stop. One officer was shot in the cheek, and another was hit in a bulletproof vest. Mason earned a department award for his role in containing “the violent situation.”
In 2013, Mason shot a 22-year-old black man who purportedly ran from a vehicle during a traffic stop and then pulled a gun on the officer. A police review board found Mason’s actions within policy. The man was shot in the hip and survived. He told police he never pointed the gun at Mason, records show. Mason told investigators he feared for his life.
Mason has met or exceeded the police department’s performance standards. A May evaluation notes that he “generally maintains composure under stress” and demonstrates “exceptional verbal skills” in defusing “potentially hostile situations.”
People he has helped have praised his actions. One woman said Mason and another officer showed understanding and care in helping her during a “psychotic breakdown.” Another woman said Mason and other officers did “an outstanding job” in ridding a park of gang members.