Today's Globe has the 911 details of a recent incident where police shot a man holding a gun. Turns out the gun was an air gun. However, the gun was a replica of a semiautomatic handgun. "The company that supplies the pellet gun, Cobra Airguns, advertises the weapon on its website as 'authentic in all respects right down to the last detail.'"
Of course people are now asking if the police could have subdued the man without shooting him. So let's follow the chronology:
Man's wife calls police to say he's completely out of his mind, kicking in the door, etc. She thinks he has a pellet gun in his hand and she's concerned the police will shoot him.
Neighbors call 911 with reports of an uncontrolled man waving a gun at them, pointing a gun at them, pulling one person out of a car while brandishing a gun, and acting unhinged.
"An officer heading to the scene then contacted a dispatcher at headquarters, according to a police transcript. 'Are we sure it's a pellet gun, sir?' the officer asks. 'We're not positive it is,' the dispatcher responds...Superintendent Daniel Linskey said that police are trained to use lethal force when confronting a suspect wielding what they believe is a firearm. 'If someone has a weapon, [officers] are trained to ensure their safety and the safety of the public until that weapon can no longer be utilized against them,' he said. 'We can't determine what kind of weapon someone has until we have a trained ballistician there to tell us what we have.'"
Maybe I'm biased because I like the idea of my brother making it home at night for dinner with his family, but I'm with the po-po on this one. The police cannot be mind readers; they can't know that they are looking at a replica of a gun; all they know is that a very unstable man is pointing a weapon in their--and the public's--direction. Is it tragic that a man not holding a lethal weapon was killed? Absolutely. But was it wrong for the officers to ensure the safety of the public and themselves using the best information they had at the time which was "his wife thinks it's a pellet gun but it looks like a semiautomatic"? IMHO, not at all.