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SRPD: Teen playing with airsoft rifle mistaken for masked gunman

Police release video describing incident to educate families about gun safety, importance of following officers' orders

San Ramon police, in the hopes of spurring conversation and education, have shared details about an incident on the north side of the city last week when a resident called 9-1-1 to report an armed gunman in her neighborhood that ended up being a teen playing airsoft with his friends.

The incident resolved without crisis after the 14-year-old listened to responding police officers' instructions and came out from behind bushes unarmed, but the outcome might have been much different otherwise, San Ramon police said in a post on the department's Facebook page this week.

"The dangers associated with this incident are obvious. Without being able to hold the weapon in your hands, it is virtually impossible to visually tell the difference between a replica airsoft rifle and a real firearm," police wrote in an accompanying video on Facebook.

The four-minute advisory video, which registered more than 132,000 views as of Thursday evening, includes two minutes of audio from the 9-1-1 call and follow-up captions from San Ramon police.

According to police, the situation occurred the night of Sept. 29 in the area of Red Willow Road and South Blackbrush Lane in San Ramon, a neighborhood near the intersection of Crow Canyon and Dougherty roads.

A woman called the San Ramon Valley 911 Communications Center to tell police about seeing a person with a helmet and "long gun" walking in the bushes across the street and then walking around her house.

"Hurry, hurry. He's gonna ... He's got ..." the woman said, speaking frantically, short of breath with her voice cracking.

The emergency dispatcher talked to the caller while the details were relayed to San Ramon police officers by another dispatcher, according to the video, which pointed out the incident came a day after a reported armed carjacking in a neighboring community -- unincorporated Danville.

Police arrived and found the person hiding in the bushes, according to the video.

"Fortunately, he followed instructions given by the officer and came out of the bushes without any weapons," the video caption read.

The person was a 14-year-old boy playing airsoft with four friends between 12 and 14 years old, and each child had an airsoft gun designed to look like an actual assault rifle, according to police.

"The dangers of airsoft guns are real. Parents, please talk with your children about gun safety," video captions said. "Make sure they look like toys and teach your kids to follow instructions if contacted by the police. Teach them before a tragedy happens."

The accompanying Facebook post asks viewers to put themselves in responding police officers' shoes.

"If you were on patrol and someone pointed one of the weapons pictured below directly at you, at a loved one, or at anyone, what would you do? Remember, you only have a few seconds to make a decision and the wrong choice could cost you your life," the post states.

The end of the video features a picture of 12 guns collected during a separate incident in San Ramon last month and asks viewers to identify which are real firearms and which are replicas, attempting to show people how difficult it is to discern the difference. Police said they will reveal the answers on Facebook in the coming days.

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Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Oct 6, 2016 at 9:53 pm

Kudos to SRPD for not being trigger happy. Too bad kids can no longer be kids.


6 people like this
Posted by Sherm
a resident of Danville
on Oct 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

First, good job by the Officers responding to this incident. With all the Robberies, carjackings and home invasions occurring in the area lately this could have gone very badly. Having said that, parents there are place to go and play airsoft. The streets at night wearing ski masks is not the thing to do. Kids being kids is one thing. But the cap guns of old are not the realistic looking guns of today. Inspect the toys your kids are playing with. They are full size, operate like a real gun, and have detachable magazines an ounce of prevention.
Lets avoid a tragedy...


2 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm

It's unfortunate that the article didn't mention if the Airsoft gun(s) being used by the kids still had the orange barrel tip that signals that they are not real guns. These can be hard to see at a distance, but on the other hand if the orange tip is visible it can serve to relax the situation a bit. It is not unheard of for kids to remove the orange tip, or darken it with a Sharpie, to make an Airsoft gun or rifle appear more "real". That is a VERY stupid thing to do in this day and age....

As others have said, it's too bad that everyone is now so on edge. Partly this is due to media coverage, and the heightened "awareness" (for better and worse) that the internet brings us. But in the old days, no one thought anything of kids "playing Army", or whatever, and running around the neighborhood with replica toy guns.

But, in our current situation, all parents need to talk to their kids about how vital it is to follow police instructions exactly, promptly, and no messing around. Even in bucolic Danville, but even more so where there is more actual crime. (And it might very well be that the recent story of the carjacking on Conejo had made the resident who called the police more on edge...) It's hard to fault the resident who called too much, but at the same time, probably everyone needs to be a bit calmer...


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