Monday, March 16, 2009

Teen toting air soft rifle in car gets arrested

Racine, WI – A teen, who had an air rifle with him in a car, was arrested after police and other drivers called in saying it looked real.

The boy’s actions also prompted several law enforcement agencies to respond to what they thought was a high-risk traffic stop Friday afternoon.

Michael Westmoreland, 17, was a passenger in the front seat of a burgundy Buick with two of his friends, Troy Stanley, 18, and Andrew Buchholz, 18, when he decided to bring his Airsoft rifle with him.

Airsoft guns use air to shoot plastic projectiles, but they look very much like real rifles.

The three teens were going to make a movie for a class project and after school at about 3:20 p.m. on Friday they thought they would stop at Westmoreland’s house to change clothes first, according to an incident report from the Racine County Sheriff’s Department.

But before they even got there, another driver saw the tip of the rifle sticking up and called 911.

Deputies with the Racine County Sheriff’s Department located the car on Highway 31 and Newman Road and didn’t think it was a toy gun because toy guns have an orange tip on the barrel of the gun, but Westmoreland had put tape over it.

The deputy called into dispatch that a high-risk traffic stop would be needed, which meant that squads from the Racine County Sheriff’s Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, Racine and Mount Pleasant police departments responded.

The car was stopped on Washington at Lathrop avenues by seven squad cars, all of the traffic was stopped on Washington Avenue and the teens exited the car and taken into police custody without incident.

Westmoreland was arrested for disorderly conduct because he put black tape over the orange tip of the air rifle and riding in the car with it so that it was visible, “furthering the illusion of a real assault rifle,” wrote Scott Litwin, a deputy with the Racine County Sheriff’s Department. “This result(ed) in a very large disturbance, which involved numerous law enforcement officers from multiple agencies and disrupt(ed) the lives of numerous motorists in the area during a very high traffic time.”

Westmoreland told Litwin the gun was for the school project, but admitted that it was “very stupid” to take the toy gun in the car.

When Westmoreland was taken into custody, however, another toy gun, which also had the orange tip and decals removed, was found in his coat pocket.

A small amount of marijuana was also found inside the car; however, Stanley told police the marijuana was his. He was given a municipal citation for possession of marijuana.

Buchholz was not cited in the incident and was released from the scene.

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