On June 11, a Sherwood Family YMCA employee called police to report a teen pointing a gun at people in the facility’s lower parking lot. Less than 10 minutes later, three Sherwood police officers, a Tualatin officer, two King City officers and a Washington County sheriff’s deputy headed toward the teen, a patrol car leading the way down the street followed by the officers who had shields, hand guns, beanbag weapons and rifles drawn.
A moment later, Nick Dailey, a 16-year-old Sherwood High School student, and seven of his friends were lying face down on the ground, handcuffed.
What police didn’t know was that Dailey’s weapon was actually an airsoft pistol, a replica of a handgun that shoots hard 6mm plastic pellets instead of bullets. After confirming that the gun wasn’t real, Nick and his friends were quickly released.
However, the incident illustrates a growing problem among local law enforcement officers: Airsoft weapons look real with the exception of an orange tip that can easily be removed or altered to resemble a real gun.
That’s something that worries Walina Dailey, Nick’s mother, who fears that a situation could turn out tragic if police think a teen has a real weapon.
“That’s my biggest concern,” said Dailey, adding that her son never pointed the gun at any of the other teens that night.
Incident was unusual
“The mere fact of owning (an airsoft gun) is not a crime or against our city ordinance,” said Hanlon. He added, however, that it is against the law to fire such a weapon within Sherwood city limits.
Although the majority of Nick’s airsoft gun was transparent, police say they can’t take any chances in assuming it’s a toy gun, pointing out that more and more components of handguns are being constructed with clear polymer plastics.
Hanlon noted that at least one airsoft gun police have previously come across, looks identical to the MP5 weapons Sherwood police formerly carried in their patrol vehicles.
Even the weight of the airsoft products are similar, said Hanlon. That makes police treat such situations as if they’re dealing with someone holding a real weapon.
“A gun is a gun even if it’s fake,” Hanlon pointed out.
While the YMCA encounter was a rare incident, police say the approach was necessary because they didn’t know whether or not they were dealing with a real weapon.
What made it more confusing was that it was a third party calling in the information with the call coming in as “a possible shooter,” causing more concern than normal.