TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Police in Tarpon Springs say a suspect, killed Saturday for waving a "military-style rifle" at cars and officers, was actually a high school student with an Airsoft pellet gun.
17-year-old Alexander King was shot and killed by officers at the intersection of Pinellas Avenue and Tarpon Avenue shortly before 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Investigators say police responded after multiple 911 calls about a "white male wearing dark clothing pointing a military-style rifle" at passers-by.
Bystander video shows Alex King pointing what turned out to be a pellet gun at passing cars
According to Chief Jeff Young, when the officers arrived, the suspect lifted the weapon, charged it, and pointed at the officers.
Video of the incident recorded by a bystander appears to show King yelling "shoot me" toward officers.
Taking cover behind a nearby vehicle, officers said they were forced to open fire. King was hit multiple times and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
King, a junior at Tarpon Springs High School, had 22 prior run-ins with police, 11 with other Pinellas County law enforcement agencies and 11 with the Tarpon Springs Police Department, including a felony arrest for battery on a school board employee in 2017 and one for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in 2018.
Social media posts by King show he got the Airsoft gun in March
Meanwhile, social media posts give little insight into what might have led to Sunday’s incident. Selfies posted on Instagram show Alex King smiling and hanging out with friends, like any other teenager.
Back in March, King posted four photos and a video with the caption: "New Airsoft Vietnam era M14. I absolutely love it."
Social media posts show Alex King with friends
Chief Young said an internal investigation is now underway to ensure proper procedures were followed, as well as a separate FDLE investigation. He deferred any questions to FDLE.
Both officers are on paid administrative leave, which is normal following an officer-involved shooting.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Alex King," Young offered. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families as they, too, deal with the aftermath of this event."
Photos show gun wielded by Alex King after he was shot by police
Grief counselors were available at Tarpon Springs High School for students and staff.
"The Pinellas County Schools community is saddened by the passing of one of our students at Tarpon Springs High School," schools spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas wrote. "The district Students Services team will provide grief counselors for students and staff needing assistance. Our thoughts and prayers are with the student's family and friends."