Police warn against too-real gun replicas Officer fired at youth who was holding one

December 05, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

It's every police officer's nightmare. On a dark, rainy night in the inner city, an officer sees a gun and fires, hitting a teen-ager holding what turns out to be a toy or less-than-lethal firearm.

Osborne Robinson III lived that nightmare Wednesday night, only the bullets he fired from 30 feet away missed. The gun the 15-year-old allegedly pointed at him was a pellet gun designed as a replica of 17-shot Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

Robinson, an officer who is a member of the Violent Crime Task Force assigned to get guns off the streets, was described as shaken by the incident, which has Baltimore police commanders warning youths about the dangers of carrying fake guns that look like the real thing.

"We want to send a very strong message to citizens and to young people that it's extremely difficult for an officer to differentiate between an authentic handgun and a replica pellet or a toy gun," said Robert W. Weinhold, a department spokesman.

"In fact, in [Wednesday] night's incident, the officer was 30 feet away from the suspect in the dark on a rainy evening, and he could not be expected at first glance to realize it was a BB gun," Weinhold said.

He added: "The department wants to send this message now before there is a fatal shooting that doesn't need to happen."

Robinson, 26, who has been on the force four years, was in the 2600 block of Edmondson Ave. when he saw the armed youth about 9 p.m.

"He continually ordered the suspect to drop the weapon," Weinhold said. "The suspect then turned toward the officer and pointed the gun at the officer, who, then fearing for his life, fired several shots."

Police said the teen-ager dropped the gun and dived to the ground. Officers arrested and charged him as a juvenile with assault by pointing.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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