A 15-year-old boy who allegedly lunged at police with an iron was fatally shot this afternoon by an officer who responded to an emergency call for help from the teen's mother in their Crescentville home, police said.

The teen, identified by relatives as Ronald Timbers, was a ninth grader at the CEP Miller Alternative School for students with serious discipline problems, said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the Philadelphia School District.

Police did not release the name of the officer who shot the teen. It was not clear whether police first tried to subdue Timbers with pepper spray or a stun gun.

The shooting seems certain to refocus scrutiny on Philadelphia police, with some experts questioning whether officers have too often resorted to deadly force and whether they have been adequately trained.

Police have fatally shot 14 people this year. Last year, 20 people were killed in the city in police shootings, the most since 1980, according to FBI statistics.

Mayor Street could not be reached tonight for comment through his spokesman Joe Grace. A spokesman said Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson might comment on the case tomorrow.

"They're conducting a full investigation," said Sgt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman, referring to probes by Internal Affairs and homicide investigators. "A lot of questions don't have answers."

About a dozen grief-stricken relatives gathered on the porch outside the two-story rowhouse in the 600 block of Brill Street where the shooting happened. Most declined to comment. "Everyone is in a state of shock," one family member said.

Lamika Jenkins, a family spokeswoman, said the family was trying to piece together events surrounding the shooting and planned to contact a lawyer.

Jenkins said the teen's mother, Yvonne, summoned police after a scuffle with her son. She did not say what sparked the dispute.

"As you can see, it escalated totally out of control," said Jenkins, the teen's sister-in-law.

Lt. Frank Vanore of the Public Affairs Unit said that about 1:30 p.m., police responded to a 911 call for help at the home, where Timbers' mother reported having a domestic disturbance with her son.

Evers said: "Mom called because she was being threatened by the son."

According to broadcast reports, Timbers allegedly was wielding a knife and a hammer.

Shortly after police arrived, there was a confrontation with the teen, who "had an object in his hand that he was using as a weapon," Vanore said.

A family member and a police source said the object was an iron.

Jenkins disputed those accounts.

"Ron did not have a weapon or anything in his hand," she told reporters at a news conference on the front steps of the rowhouse. "He never threatened the officers."

The officer fired his weapon, striking Timbers in the chest, police said. Timbers was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m.

Police said that the officer was with his partner and that the teen kept coming at them before he was shot. Evers said at least two relatives - the teen's mother and a brother - were in the house when the shooting occurred.

Jenkins said the shooting occurred after police allowed Timbers "to run up the steps."

"This is very detrimental to our family. This is very hard to deal with," Jenkins said. Neighbors said police had been to the home several times for disturbances in the last six months.

Relatives declined to provide any information about Timbers. They showed reporters several photographs of him that were taken several years ago.

"He was a good kid. He was never a problem," neighbor Diane Rauseo said. "It's just a sin, another baby."

Khalil Lewis, 14, who lives on the same block, said that he had known Timbers since they were toddlers and that Timbers would often give him money.

"He was a cool kid. He was a true friend," said Lewis, an eighth grader.

Jessica Marquez, who lives on the other end of Brill and whose teenage daughter was friends with Timbers, described him as a "rowdy kid" who got into fights "here and there."

Others said Timbers, nicknamed "Ron Ron," was well-liked, especially by younger children. He was the youngest of eight siblings.

As night fell on the relatively stable and well-kept neighborhood, curiosity-seekers continued to drive past. Several television trucks were parked nearby.

Community activist Gerald McCain rushed to the scene after getting more than a dozen calls from concerned residents.

"An iron? It doesn't sound too good, does it?" McCain asked. "Something is wrong. We're taking out kids?"

McCain and other neighbors questioned whether police responded appropriately in using deadly force on Timbers, who they said had a small frame.

"Why did he have to get shot?" Marquez asked. "It's in God's hands now."

Department guidelines permit officers to use deadly force if they reasonably believe they or another person face imminent death or serious bodily injury.

The officer who shot the teen has been placed on administrative duty, which is standard whenever an officer fires a weapon.