17 shootings that involved fake guns

Fueled by fear, tension and split-second decisions, too often fake guns and police can mix in a way that results in tragedy. Below find a summary of incidents involving shootings that included fake firearms.

  • 2014

    • Aug. 5 Two Beavercreek police officers shot and killed John Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, after they responded to 911 call of a man walking around the Walmart in Beavercreek pointing a “black rifle” at people and who “looks like he was trying to load it.” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Crawford was carrying plastic replica weapon, a MK-177 BB/Pellet Rifle. During the shooting, Walmart shopper Angela Williams, 37, collapsed and died after “apparently running from a dangerous situation.” Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers said the officers likely acted appropriately. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating.
    • May 6 Two Lakewood, Colo., police officers shot and wounded Alex Robert Martines, 31, in a Walmart parking lot after he pointed a realistic-looking Airsoft handgun at the officers. Police responded to a domestic dispute between Martines and an a female acquaintance, who told police he was armed.
    • Feb. 5 Two Oxnard, Calif., police officers shot and wounded a 42-year-old woman, who was suicidal, after she pointed one of two realistic-looking replica guns at them and would not obey their commands. Police responded to a 911 call of a woman who said she had a loaded gun and was going to kill herself at a park.
  • 2013

    • 2013 Canton, Ohio, Police Department investigated 118 incidences involving fake guns that looked like real guns. Canton police said,” Unfortunately fake guns are being manufactured to look more realistic looking and look more indistinguishable from genuine guns.”
    • Nov. 16 Nick King, 14, was shot in the shoulder by a Battle Creek, Mich., police officer after responding to a man with a pistol in the bushes near a drive thru store. The teen had an Airsoft gun, which resembled a real gun. King survived, and Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert ruled the shooting was justified. On July 30, three teen girls, who were with King at the time of the shooting, filed a federal lawsuit against the police officer and department claiming the constitutional rights were violated when they were “unlawfully detained” by police.
    • Oct. 22 A Santa Rosa, Calif., police officer shot and killed Andy Lopez, 13, for carrying a Airsoft gun, which police say resembled to a real AK-47 assault rifle. The Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said the shooting was a tragedy but not a crime and that she would not press charges against Deputy Eric Gelhaus. She said the sheriff’s deputy thought his life was in danger when he shot Lopez.
    • June 12 A Springdale, Ark., police officer fires seven shots into a parked van after Rainbow Kilo Rasphoumy, 40, wanted for a domestic disturbance call, pointed what appeared to be a handgun at police during a standoff in a Walmart parking lot. Police said Rasphoumy, who was not injured, pointed a black plastic toy gun that resembled a snub-nose revolver. The Washington County prosecutor’s office ruled the shooting was justified.
    • April 5 An Oakland, Calif., police officer shot and injured one of two burglary suspects who was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a fake gun.
    • Jan. 5 Three Phoenix police officers shot and killed Chuckie Stowers, 39, after he allegedly stole a pistol-style BB gun from a Walmart store and pointed it officers as they approached him and ordered him to stop and show his hands.
  • 2012

    • Jan. 11 A man and teen23, and 17 years –old face were charged with assault for pointing a toy gun, an Airsoft gun at a woman while she was driving. The weapon resembled a real assault rifle.
    • Jan. 4 Brownsville, Texas, police officers, armed with assault rifles, shot and killed Jaime Gonzales Jr., 15, at Cumming Middle School, after responding to a 911 call of student with a gun inside the school. Police ordered the teen to drop the gun, which turned out to be an Airsoft pellet gun that resembled a black Glock. The death was ruled a justifiable homicide. Gonzales’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city and five police officers.
  • 2011

    • Oct. 23 Javier Gonzales-Guerrero, 25, was drunk and passed out in a hotel stairwell after a costume party in San Jose, Calif. He was shot by policeman, who had mistaken his gold-colored toy gun for a real weapon. Police said Gonzales-Guerrero was shot more than 20 times after ignoring police commands not to touch his gun and then moving his hands toward it. In September 2013, the city of San Jose agreed to pay $4.9 million to Gonzales-Guerrero, who survived.
    • Aug. 31 A North Miami Beach, Fla., police officer shot and killed Ernest Vassell, 56, who was prowling through a neighborhood carrying what police later determined to be realistic looking replica gun. Family members said Vassell was mentally disabled from a fall he suffered as a child and had difficulty complying with officers’ commands.
    • Jan. 29 Matthew Cicelski, 39, of Oakland, was shot and killed by three police officers after pointing a gun, which turned out to be a replica assault rifle. Police responded to a report of an armed man acting erratically with a knife and gun while “patrolling” outside a home of his ex- . Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley cleared the officers.
  • 2010

    • Dec. 16 Rohayent Gomez, 13, was playing “cops and robbers” with friends when he was shot by a Los Angeles police officer, who were patrolling the area for graffiti and gang activity. The teen and his friends were carrying Airsoft pistols when the police officer startled Gomez as he hid behind a van reloading his pellet gun. The officer yelled a command and the teen took a surprised step. He was hit in the chest and left paralyzed. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. In December 2012, a jury awarded $24 million to Gomez.
  • 2009

    • June 14 Ronald Hughes, 66, a retired Baptist minister, was shot and killed by two Clay Center, Kan., police officers after he ignored orders to drop his gun and instead pointed it at them. The gun was later found to be a plastic toy. Police responded to a domestic violence call. His family said he had suffered multiple strokes that affected the “cognitive side of his brain.” The Kansas Bureau of Investigation ruled June 26, 2009, that the officer-involved shooting was justified.
    • May 11 A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot William Fetters, 15, who was playing a game of “cops and robbers” with a toy gun, thought to be real, while riding his bicycle and brandishing a weapon. Police said they ordered him to drop the gun, and when he refused, they shot him. In March 2013, a jury awarded $1.1 million to Fetters after concluding the deputy used excessive force. The sheriff’s office is appealing the verdict.
Reporting: M. David Goodwin | Interactive: Kyle Nagel | Sources: Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the International Health & Epidemiology Research Center, Los Angeles Police Department, Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and wire news services | Published: Aug. 10, 2014 |