Police officers put their lives at risk every time they put on the uniform. There has been a lot of discussion nationwide about holding law enforcement accountable for their actions and holding them to high standards. But when seconds count and your life could be on the line, could you be sure of making the right decision?
Amid the national debate on police actions, there's been another recent instance of mistaken weapon identity. Tyree King, 13, in Ohio was shot and killed in Ohio after police say he pulled out a BB gun that looked like a real firearm.
There are also instances of people using realistic-looking BB guns to commit crimes. A group of Borderland teens committed a string of robberies late last year, even shooting out a window or two with what turned out to be not actual firearms.
Imagine yourself in that kind of split second life or death decision. You're suddenly presented with what looks very similar to a real firearm. Could you reliably figure out if it's real or not?
"Left one's fake," said J. Scott Drake, CEO Drake Fine Sporting Arms, as he correctly identified pictures of a real Smith & Wesson handgun and a pellet gun replica.
Drake's store on Mesa is in the process of opening, but does currently sell a version of the real Smith & Wesson handgun.
"You know, the rough differences in a split second decision are very hard to spot," Drake said. "With the popularity of the airsoft tactical simulations and the ways they're making pellet guns and things like that now, it can be very hard to tell the difference."
You might be wondering about what happened to having orange tips on fake guns. Federal law does require it on a "toy, look-alike, or imitation" firearm but it is not required paint ball, pellet or BB guns. Many sporting goods stores in town sell these pellet gun reproductions.
ABC-7 reached out to the El Paso Police Department about what kind of training officers receive and what kind of response is expected for officers. Spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo sent this statement in response:
"Anything that resembles a firearm, deadly weapon, or presented in a manner that would reasonably be perceived to be used as a deadly weapon that places any person in fear of serious bodily injury or death may induce a deadly force situation. Until that item whatever, it may be is in the hands of a law enforcement officer who can confirm whether or not an item is a firearm then all logic and sound reasoning dictates reasonably presuming that it is a firearm. Officers responding to any situation or taking enforcement action react to others actions. Toy replicas and bb guns so closely resemble a real firearm that it is impossible to discern in the reactionary moments that an officer has to make a life and death decision. To expect someone to identify or differentiate between real and replica in that time is simply asinine. Reaching for or pointing anything that looks like a firearm during an interaction with the police is a dangerous thing to do.
"We are currently working on a public service announcement on citizen/police interactions."