Tempe PD: 14-year-old boy with airsoft gun shot, killed by police
TEMPE, AZ — The Tempe Police Department said on Wednesday the “man” that was shot and later died at the hospital was a 14-year-old boy.
Police also said he had a replica 1911 model airsoft gun, not a real handgun.
Police said the officer was chasing the teen near 48th Street and Baseline on Tuesday afternoon and he turned around and the officer felt threatened so he fired his gun.
“This is unfortunately a situation that the officer is going to have to live with forever. They’re going to carry some issues with them now that they know it wasn’t a actual firearm. However, they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do by policy and procedure in their training with the police department,” said Kevin Boontjer, a retired police sergeant.
The teen was later found in an alley and taken to the hospital where he later died.
Police said it all started when they received a call about a suspicious vehicle just after 2:30 p.m. An officer arrived and found the teen burglarizing the vehicle.
The teen then got out of the vehicle and ran off with the airsoft gun.
During the chase, the officer perceived a threat and the boy was shot.
“It really doesn’t change the dynamics of the event from the officer’s perspective unfortunately. It is impossible to train someone on what is a real weapon and a fake weapon. It’s just impossible,” Boontjer explained.
Boontjer said typically airsoft guns have an orange tip to indicate that it is not a real gun. However, he said some people remove the orange tip, or it can be hard for an officer to see during a chase.
“Let’s say that the gun did have the orange tip on it. You’re running, your vision is bouncing, you can’t keep normal vision as you’re running, and you’re trying to, again, assess a hundred different pieces of information as you’re running,” Boontjer explained. “And when we train these officers for these lethal force situations, we can’t teach them to look at something so microscopic as an orange dot that is bouncing around, that could be facing away from them as the suspect is running away.”
Police said the officer told the teen to stop.
“I would suspect that when this started to occur, the police officer said ‘stop’ or ‘don’t run’ or something and unfortunately if the suspect had stopped and followed the orders the officer gave that person, there would probably be a much different outcome,” Boontjer said.
Police said the incident was recorded on the officer’s body-worn camera.
The teen had removed the airsoft gun and items from the vehicle, police said.
An investigation is ongoing.