Police shooting of Texas teen sparks debate about deadly force

A tragic shooting in Texas has people in our area talking about when it's proper for police to use deadly force.

Jaime Gonzalez, 15, was shot at least twice by officers in a hallway at Cummings Middle School in Brownsville, TX. Wednesday.

Authorities say the teen had aimed a gun at officers and they repeatedly told him to put it down, but he refused. The boy's weapon turned out to be a pellet gun, but it looked very real.

Sgt. Robert Kegler with Horry County police said officers are trained to treat a weapon that's pointed at them as if it is real.

"We use our force continuum that we are trained to, at the academy and also here at the police department, deadly force is met with deadly force," Kegler said.

The use of deadly force in the Brownsville incident has sparked a debate on NewsChannel 15's Facebook page.

That's where Cleve Davis writes, "They did not have to kill the young man, just bring him down!" That's where Cleve Davis writes, "They did not have to kill the young man, just bring him down!"

But others said aiming for a gunman's arm or leg is the sort of thing that only happens in movies.

Brett Ribblett says, "You don't wait for the shooter to open fire before you take action. After being warned and told to put it down, the officer must take action to save others."

But what if the shooting victim was your child? The boy's father is questioning why officers repeatedly fired at his son.

"They overreacted," said Jaime Gonzalez, Sr. "I mean I understand they look like a gun but I mean like shooting him three times? That's unnecessary."

Kegler said we live in a world where many toys and BB guns look very authentic, and pellet guns are, in a sense, real weapons, so they should be treated that way.

"It's not a toy, so it should be used under the supervision of an adult."

Many toy and pellet guns have orange tips on the end to indicate that they're not real weapons, but Kegler said those tips can be painted over or covered with black tape. He said police often have to react within seconds to a potentially deadly situation.

"You go through all the same procedures as you would with a real gun, but you have to make decisions in a split decision."

Brownsville's police chief says his officers had every right to do what they did to protect themselves and other students. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on leave.