CINCINNATI (AP) — Two officers fatally shot a robbery suspect who pointed a weapon that was later determined to be a BB pistol at them, a police chief said Tuesday.
Robert Tenbrink, suspected in robberies reported earlier Monday at two stores in the area, was hit at least once, in the face, and died at the scene, said Eliot Isaac, the Cincinnati police chief.
The officers confronted the 45-year-old Tenbrink on Monday night down the street from the Walgreens and Deals stores where employees reported a man pointed a gun at them and demanded money from their cash registers, Isaac said. He said Tenbrink, of Cincinnati, matched the description given by employees of a man in a dark coat and plaid pants.
In audio from the shooting scene, officers are heard telling Tenbrink to put up his hands. Tenbrink pointed his realistic-looking weapon at the officers and apparently didn't respond verbally, Isaac said. The chief said Tenbrink had undergone a tracheotomy and might not have been able to communicate clearly.
From what he knows at this point in the investigation, Isaac said, the officers were justified in shooting.
"They respond in the manner in which they are trained," he said.
The officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard in police-involved shootings, Isaac said.
A relative said Tuesday that Tenbrink struggled unsuccessfully for years to overcome an addiction to drugs, likely including heroin, which left him alienated from his family.
"He just couldn't get off the drugs, and that just brought him down, down, down," said his brother Jason Tenbrink, 43, of Cincinnati.
Robert Tenbrink had also run out of money and was depressed, he said. A former ironworker, Robert Tenbrink had to stop working several years ago after undergoing surgery for throat cancer, his brother said.
On a "Go Fund Me" money-raising site activated Oct. 7, Robert Tenbrick asked for financial help, saying he was desperate. He was living on disability and didn't own a car, he said.
"I have been a hard worker all of my life. But have fallen on hard times like most," he posted. He'd raised $50.
Numerous authorities, including a citizen complaint authority and a firearms review board, will investigate the shooting, with results sent to the Hamilton County prosecutor and the city manager.
No money was taken from the Walgreens store, but an undetermined amount of cash was taken from the Deals store, police said. Some of that money appeared to have been recovered from the shooting scene, according to police.
Mayor John Cranley said officials regret any loss of life and pray for Tenbrink's family. But he said the officers' actions were justified.
"This guy pointed a gun at our police," Cranley said. "That is totally unacceptable, and our officers have every right to shoot — to kill, if necessary — in a situation like that."
Associated Press Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.