NEW DELHI: Police in the United States city of Cleveland, Ohio, shot dead a twelve-year old African-American boy waving around what turned out to be a toy gun at a playground on Saturday, police confirmed on Sunday.

The shooting comes as racial tensions are high, with a grand jury expected to deliver its verdict on whether a white policeman will be indicted for the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, St. Louis.

Ohio was also the scene of a similar fatal shooting in August, when police responded to a 911 call but shooting and killing an African-American man, John Crawford, in a Walmart store after he purchased a toy gun sold there.

In Saturday’s incident, police responded to a call stating that the boy in question was pointing a gun at people. Officers called to the scene shot the boy twice, hitting him at least once in the stomach.

The boy, identified as Tamir Rice, died on Sunday morning, with the gun in question turning out to be a toy gun.

The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave as is the standard in such cases, a statement by the Cleveland Police said.

The statement said: “Upon arrival on scene, officers located the suspect and advised him to raise his hands," the statement said...The suspect did not comply with the officers' orders and reached to his waistband for the gun… Shots were fired and the suspect was struck in the torso… Further information reveals that the weapon which the 12-year-old suspect was in possession of is an 'airsoft' type replica gun resembling a semi-automatic pistol, with the orange safety indicator removed."

The incident has refocused attention on questions of race in justice in the US, with the Michael Brown shooting being the trigger. 18 year old Brown was reportedly walking, unarmed, from a convenience store to his grandmother’s apartment in Ferguson, when a police officer shot and killed him. Eyewitness accounts suggest that Brown was cooperative, raising his arms when the officer shot at him multiple times. The police version notes a struggle, saying that Brown attempted to get hold of the officer’s gun. An autopsy of Brown, released on Monday, notes that the young man was shot six times, including twice in the head.

The incident brought thousands on to the streets to ask for justice, with personal accounts of people feeling targeted by the police on the basis of their race began emerging. The police’s handling of protests added insult to injury, with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets leading to the suppression of what began as a peaceful demonstration of discontent.

Brown’s death however, seemed to be the trigger, representing years of frustration and marginalisation. Ferguson is a city of 21,000 people - 67 percent of whom are black. However, 94 percent of the police force, and most prominent figures in local government, including the mayor, are white.

These recent shootings are being compared to the shooting of 17-year old unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighbourhood watch captain. The shooter was eventually acquitted of murder in a racially charged case.

Other parallels have been drawn as well. The killing of 17-year old Jordan Davis, who was, along with his friends, shot at by a man for playing “loud music.” The jury convicted the shooter on four counts, but not on the count of murder, with many attributing the verdict to a racial context -- the shooter being white and the teenagers, including Davis who died, being black.

The most apparent parallel however, are the Los Angeles riots of 1992 -- where the trigger was the brutal police beating of Rodney King, which was videotaped and widely covered but ended in the acquittal of the officers concerned. The Ferguson protests, much like the LA riots of 1992, may have been a reaction to an immediate trigger, but are located in a far broader context of marginalisation and discrimination.