Wednesday, September 2, 1998

Lindsay Kines

p. B3.

Boy aims toy gun at police officer

The 14-year-old, who was dressed in camouflage gear, narrowly avoided being shot, Vancouver police say.

Vancouver city police say a 14-year-old boy narrowly avoided being shot Monday night when he refused to drop a toy gun and momentarily raised it toward an officer who did not know the weapon was a fake.

"It's amazing that this one kid is alive," media liaison Constable Anne Drennan said Tuesday. "He wouldn't respond to commands to drop the gun or anything."

The incident began about 10:45 p,m, when an officer on a prostitution stakeout in the 100-block Semlin Drive spotted a male with a pistol. Police say he crossed a lane, crouched down in some bushes and took a combat stance.

The police officer promptly called for back-up, and continued to watch the male as he changed positions in the bushes. "He was clearly pointing the gun at somebody, and appeared to be getting ready to shoot," Drennan said.

Once the officer's back-up arrived, he drew his service pistol, and ordered the male to drop his weapon.

"It took four sets of commands before the gun was dropped," Drennan said. "And even then, the suspect raised his pistol towards the officer before he finally dropped it."

Police took the male into custody, and it was only then the officer realized that the suspect was a 14-year-old boy and the weapon a toy pistol -- the same size as a police-issue sidearm.

The boy told police he had been playing with friends. Investigators subsequently located four more young males -- two 14-year-olds, a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old.

Two of the other boys were also carrying toy guns.

Drennan said the yount males were dressed in camouflage clothing and had their faces blackened.

As she has done numerous times in the past, Drennan issued a warning to parents and children about the dangers of playing with toy guns. The situation Monday was meade even more dangerous because it was dark, the boy was old enough to be mistaken for a man, and he refused to comply with police demands to drop the weapon, she said.

"One of these days there's going to be a tragedy where a young person's going to be shot by police," Drennan said.

She credited the officer involved for holding his fire, despite having no idea whether the gun was real or fake.

"When you're out there in these kinds of circumstance, we can't tell the difference," she said.

No charges were laid as a result of the incident.

Drennan said the boys were returned to the care of their parents, whom police described as "very cooperative."

The toy guns were seized and will be destroyed, Drennan said.

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Created: September 2, 1998
Last modified: September 2, 1998

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