After 13-year old is shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in Northern California, firearm defense expert said increased firearm education for parents and children may prevent another tragic death.
“The details of this situation are still being determined but clearly there was a heightened suspicion on behalf of the police officers,” said Rob Pincus, owner and operator of I.C.E. Firearm Training Services. ICE is a full service company offering training and consulting to armed professionals and those interested in self-defense.
Andy Lopez Cruz a 13-year-old boy was shot seven times and killed by Sonoma County deputies on Oct. 22 after police officers spotted Cruz walking in public carrying an Airsoft play gun in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Airsoft, an up-and-coming sport similar to paintball, uses an “Automatic Electric Gun” for combat-like scenario play. The play firearm is a fully automatic replica gun that fires plastic pellets at opponents.
“It is a tragedy from every angle,” said Pincus. “However this is unfortunately an easy mistake.”
The companies that make replica guns design them to be as realistic as possible, he said. “The kids choose the ones that look like real military-style weapons and firearms that law enforcement uses.”
The former police officer said by law orange colored paint or strips are supposed to be on the tip of each play gun. “The orange strip is there so that anyone in the vicinity can recognize the gun as replicas or Airsoft guns made for games.”
In this instance, he said the orange paint was either removed or painted over deceiving the police officer into believing it was a dangerous weapon. “Removing the orange indicator is what makes the gun a literal one-to-one replica of a real AK-47.”
“Mistakes can be easily made between a fake gun and a real gun by anybody – even a trained, experienced law enforcement officer,” said Pincus who is a founding member of the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors.
People are always going to look to blame someone, but ultimately he said the officers were in a situation where the replica-gun looked like a real gun. “It was supposed to have an orange tip, and that obviously contributed to the officer’s impression that Lopez was potentially a threat.”
Everyone involved so far agrees there were instructions given to Lopez to drop the gun, he said. “The child did not drop the gun; and unfortunately he did something that represented a threat to the officers who shot him.”
The answer is not to ban play guns, rather it is to make sure gun-play is in a controlled and supervised environment made for that purpose, said Pincus who is co-author with Armed American Radio host Mark Walters of the recently released book “Lessons From UNarmed America.”
There are people that are understandably upset over the boy being killed, but their grievances needs to be addressed unfortunately at the boy, himself, he said. “He is responsible for modifying the toy gun; for being in public; and for not obeying the police officer’s instructions.”
In this situation, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the police officer, he said. “We can’t blame a police officer for doing what he needs to do to protect himself or a partner in his community.”
“Parents should be playing an active role in making sure they are keeping their children safe,” he said. “When parents are dealing with any toy or replica gun, make sure they have the orange tips in place so they are identified as non-threatening to a police officer or anyone in the area.”
Pincus, who is the developer of the personal Firearms Defense video series, which has over 60 titles and has shipped more than four million copies since 2005, said informing children to obey a police officer’s orders is also the responsibility of parents. “Parents need to remind our kids whether their playing with toy guns or not, anytime they are confronted by a police officer they need to do exactly what that police officer is saying.”
A spokesperson for the regional office from the FBI said they are looking into the matter, he said, but that does not mean they have a formal investigation or formal charges pending. “It may simply mean they are reviewing the case to see if they want to go further. There certainly has been no charges pressed, and I do not know whether there was any official inquiry yet.”
The standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting is that he or she be placed on paid administrative leave, yet that is not an indication of wrongdoing or suspicion, said the managing editor of Personal Defense Network. PDN provides high-quality, personal defense video content online and a no-nonsense gathering place for those serious about arming themselves.
“Kids are curious about guns and they need to learn to use toys and replicas responsibly,” he said. “Guns are in movies; video games; and parents may use guns for hunting, sport, or self-defense.”
Parents ought to seek out children’s firearm education from trained, firearm instructors, he said. “The trick is to seek out education so children understand that safety rules that apply to firearms – in many cases – apply to replicas as well.”