Shooting of Eighth-Grader Highlights Danger of Realistic Pellet Guns
Local police warn parents, students of lethal consequences of modified pellet guns
Avon Lake Police are using the tragic killing by Texas police of an eighth-grader holding a pellet gun and an incident in Miller Road Park to highlight the dangers of taking toy guns—including pellet guns--in public.
On Jan. 5, Brownsville, TX student 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez was shot to death by two police officers while in school after brandishing a carbon-dioxide powered .177-caliber pellet gun that resembled a real pistol. The shooting was ruled justified when the teen was warned to put down the gun and did not comply.
The Texas shooting elicited strong reactions, but Avon Lake Lt. Sean Bockelman said had the incident occurred here, it probably would have had the same result.
“We have to treat it as a real gun,” Bockelman said.
If you think it couldn’t happen here, thing again. Bockelman recounted an incident Nov. 4 when a group of junior high school students had a confrontation at the Miller Road Park pier with a fisherman.
“He was confronted by the kids who were acting a little strange,” Bockelman said. “One had his hand behind his back. He asked the kid what he had and the kid pulled out the gun.”
Bockelman said the young man did not point the gun, but pulled it into view.
“(The fisherman) said something to the effect, ‘There’s not enough of you to handle me’ and the kids took off.”
The fisherman, having no idea the gun was fake, called the police who found a group of boys on Miller Road. One produced the gun, which ended up being an Air soft pellet gun.
Police confiscated the pellet gun, which is not considered lethal, and the student was given a stern lecture. It happens more often than people might expect.
“We find a couple times a year a resident sees a kid or teen with a gun,” Bockelman said. “It usually turns out to be an Airsoft gun.”
Modified toy guns look real
The danger in bringing a gun such as the one confiscated is in its realistic look. The pellet gun confiscated, as well as several “toy” other ones at the police station have been modified so the orange tip that designates the pistol is a toy has been blackened.
Placed side by side with a real pistol on a counter, the Airsoft gun looks strikingly similar to a lethal pistol.
Police Chief Dave Owad, as well as Bockelman, said parents need to be aware of the dangers of such realistic looking pistols which are legal to own, but illegal per city ordinance to discharge.
“In light of what has taken place recently and that we had a conversation with the ‘victim’ at Miller Road Park, we wanted some public awareness,” Owad said. “Young people don’t understand the repercussions can be serious and lethal.
“We have dealt with these things in the past and people don’t understand the consequences of a police officer responding, or a person in the community acting in self defense.”
Owad said every air soft gun retrieved has been modified to more resemble a real gun.
“A tragedy like what happened (in Texas) can be prevented. “Airsoft guns are very realistic. They’re a lot of fun, but you can’t be putting them in general circulation.”
Bockelman said the Texas shooting is tragic not only for the person killed and family, but the officer as well.
“I can’t imagine dealing with the fact he shot a kid,” Bockelman said.