Fake Guns Cause Confusion over Police Shootings

There has been much in the news as of late concerning the problematic issue of police shootings in which a fake gun was involved.  The latest of these was the shooting of 13-year-old (name withheld for privacy) in Sonoma County.  It seems that the boy had a fake AK-47, which a deputy mistook for a real gun and, feeling that the eighth-grader was a threat, killed him in front of the teen’s home.  The family of the young man is preparing a law suit, especially as new information has come to light regarding both police training practices that encourage these kinds of mistakes and the fact that it is uncommon for law enforcement officials to be charged in such cases.

Other recent incidents, like that of this shooting, is another boy who is now paralyzed from the waist down because the cops mistook his pellet gun for a real one, have brought these public apprehensions to the forefront.  In that particular case, which took place in Los Angeles, a jury awarded him a $24 million settlement.  However, the officer involved was never charged with a crime, nor was he reprimanded in any visible way.  Certainly, he never spent any time in prison.  The legal precedent up to this point is that officers are very rarely convicted in accidental shootings involving fake guns.  Some argue that this creates a lack of trust from the public toward the profession and that it also shows a lack of desire to be accountable on the police force’s part.  Law enforcement officials, on the other hand, argue that these shootings are part and parcel of working in an environment that is inherently hostile and dangerous.