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Teen With Toy Gun Is Shot

Ontario officer wounds the boy, one of four reportedly pointing replicas at motorists.

July 27, 2006|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

An Ontario police officer shot and wounded a 15-year-old boy Tuesday night after chasing the youth behind a Kmart where officials say the boy pulled out what appeared to be a .44-caliber magnum handgun. The weapon turned out to be a toy.

The chase began shortly before 9 p.m. after a witness reported four boys hiding in bushes, pointing guns at motorists.

When police arrived, two of the juveniles fled, ignoring the officers' order to halt and drop their weapons. The other two surrendered.

One youth scaled a wall and initially escaped. The other dropped what appeared to be a black Uzi-style gun, but he refused to follow an officer's command to lie on the ground, Officer Anthony Ortiz said.

Instead, the boy lifted his T-shirt and began pulling out what appeared to be a large black handgun from the waistband of his pants, Ortiz said. The officer fired two rounds, striking the boy in the thigh.

Ortiz could not say how far the officer was from the boy at the time of the shooting.

"The kid made a threatening move. The officer is in fear for his safety, so he shoots," Ortiz said. "You have to assume it's a real one. If you wait a split second, you're dead."

Police later determined the weapons were Airsoft replica guns, which generally shoot rubber or plastic pellets.

A 1988 federal law requires fake guns to have an orange tip to help officers determine which guns are real, but Ortiz said the orange tip of the Chino boy's air gun was not visible to the officer.

Police confiscated seven Airsoft guns at the scene, including four fake handguns, two imitation rifles and one replica shotgun.

In photos released by Ontario police, most of the confiscated air guns appeared to have bright orange tips.

Ortiz said officers in his department had recently received crime-trend bulletins warning that "bad guys are painting the tops of real guns orange to make them look like toy guns."

Municipalities across the nation have passed ordinances banning the realistic-looking guns within city limits. The 15-year-old was handcuffed at the scene and then treated at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton for non-life-threatening wounds, police said.

The Chino boy faces misdemeanor charges of exhibiting an imitation firearm at another person and of violating an Ontario law that bars minors from having air guns within city limits.

Shortly after the shooting incident, police found the boy who had fled. The four boys were released after being issued citations for having air guns.

The Ontario Police Department was investigating the incident, and the officer involved in the shooting was put on three days' paid administrative leave, which is customary for officers involved in shootings.

The officer, who has not been identified, has worked at the Ontario Police Department for seven years.

Police did not release the teenagers' names because they are juveniles.

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