While lawmakers in many states decide whether or not to ban replica firearms, including very real looking assault rifles and handguns, another child, 12 year old Tamir Rice, loses his life while waving and pointing just such a replica gun in Cleveland this month. Rice is not the first child to die or to be wounded when an officer was unable to distinguish whether or not the gun a child was holding was real or fake.
February 2014: "Supporters of the measure say police officers could easily mistake the realistic-looking firearms for the real thing.
They say a scenario of a student entering a school building with such a firearm could end badly if an officer is forced to make a quick decision, pointing to incidents like one in California last year when a 13-year-old boy [Andrew Lopez] was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy who said he thought a BB gun was an assault rifle.
Deputy kills 13-year-old carrying fake rifle
Andy Lopez, 13, killed while wielding a replica assault weapon
2013: "Two Sonoma County deputies spotted the boy holding what appeared to be an assault rifle Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's office said. They pulled over "but maintained cover behind their open passenger door," the press release said.
They yelled at the teen to put the weapon down. He had his back to them and began turning around toward the officers, the statement said.
|The one on the right is the "toy" gun|
"One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction. The deputy feared for his safety, the safety of his partner, and the safety of the community members in the area," the statement said." (No charges were filed against the officer that shot Lopez)
Battle Creek 14-year-old with toy gun who was shot by police hospitalized in serious condition
"...officer who arrived on the scene found the young man crouched down near the store, the news release said. The officer "advised the suspect to show his hands, and the suspect produced what appeared to be a large-caliber handgun from his clothing area."
"The officer fired a single round and the suspect dropped the weapon and ran. Officers located the suspect a short distance away and requested a medical response for an apparent gunshot wound," said the release.
|Nicholas King had a toy Smith and Wesson semiautomatic handgun like this one when he was shot by police|
"I want to know what happened, and why he, why this officer did what he
did to my son? Nicholas King did not deserve this," Nelson told WOOD-TV, which reported the boy was shot in the shoulder and had to undergo a six-hour operation Saturday.
According to WOOD-TV, Nelson told her son to leave the gun at home Saturday morning. "My exact last words I said was, 'Please leave the gun at home because what happens if you get shot?' And this is what happened," Nelson said. (although she knew this was a possibility if he took the gun out) [Link]
|Reenactment of King with handgun|
|Nicholas Naquan Heyward, Jr.|
There was also Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. in Bushwick, NY, 1994 - he was playing cops and robbers. Telling the story ten years later is impossible, too much rhetoric, like this, his father's description of the gun (cork "pop" gun), which was actually a double barreled replica of a rifle, has filled the internet since then - I am hard-pressed to even find a photo of the gun. The story has been embellished since 1994, especially by his father. The following article came out fairly early and is probably as accurate as I am going to find. There is a foundation and a major park in Bushwick in this young man's name, and his death is memorialized every year by a large number of Bushwick residents.
"Nicholas Heyward, his 18-inch toy rifle held up by his right ear, got to the final step and then his life was ended, by a real gunshot from the revolver of a real police officer, Brian George, a 23-year-old on routine patrol for the Housing Authority.
Nicholas, who turned 13 last month, was one of two Brooklyn youths carrying toy weapons who were shot by the police Tuesday night in separate incidents, the police said. At 11 P.M. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Jamiel Johnson, 16, was shot once in the stomach by Officer Robert Rodriguez, a plainclothes New York City police officer who said the youth had pulled a toy replica of a 9-millimeter gun from his waistband. The youth was in critical condition at Kings County Hospital Center last night.
"It's hard to have fun nowadays, that's sad, but that's the way it is here," said one grandmother who had known Nicholas since his birth. "It's a shooting gallery here. You can't put blame on either side. The officer was as scared as the kids."
"He asked did I know the boy's mother," said Ms. Rivera. "He asked me to go get his mother."
According to one of the boys, Ronald Herron, 14, Officer George was openly crying when he was led out of 423 Baltic by other officers.
The father, who said he had ordered his child not to play with toy guns because of the possibility of a mistake by police officers, said he had warned his son to put the toy away only 90 minutes before the shooting." [Link]
According to statistics provided by the housing police, there have been four murders, 19 reported cases of shots fired, 19 robberies and 34 instances of aggravated assault at the Gowanus Houses this year.
No Charges in Death of Boy With Toy GunPublished: December 21, 1994
"Saying the real culprits are authentic-looking toy guns, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced yesterday that he would not attempt to prosecute the housing police officer who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy [Nicholas Heyward] last September after suddenly coming upon the boy playing cops and robbers.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of many examples of kids being shot and/or killed while wielding replica or "toy" guns. Some states have banned replica and toy guns...if your state is not one of them, I urge you to contact lawmakers and demand change. An officer confronted by anyone of any age with one of these guns is always going to consider his safety and the safety of the public when making a split second decision whether or not to fire until a perceived threat is removed.