Riverside’s police chief says he’d support legislation that would mandate BB gun manufacturers to paint their products in a way that would distinguish them from real firearms after several incidents in the past year involving BB guns, some of which appeared to be actual guns.
“This is really a problem that is associated with the behavior of individuals using replica weapons,” Weitzel said. “This is not a Second Amendment issue.”
The latest incident occurred Monday at about 9 p.m., when a resident of the 200 block of East Burlington Street called police to report that a window had just been shot out. Police eventually determined that the hole in the window was caused by a pellet, which was found inside the home.
While police were at the scene, they received a call that juveniles were attempting to burglarize a garage about a block away, in the 100 block of Herrick Road. Riverside police, assisted by Lyons police, arrested three juveniles who were running from the area where the attempted burglary was reported.
While running from police, one of the juveniles allegedly was carrying what appeared to be a 9 mm Glock pistol. Police said he was carrying a second gun on his person.
The guns, which had no orange markings to distinguish them from the real deal, turned out to be BB guns that were, according to police “exact replicas of a real handgun commonly used by police.”
The juveniles reportedly were walking around the neighborhood shooting pellets at home, street lights and moving vehicles. Police found two homes, the one on Burlington and one on Herrick Road, had been damaged.
Police charged a 17-year-old Riverside boy with two counts of criminal damage to property. A 17-year-old Forest Park boy was cited for criminal trespassing. The third was not charged.
Weitzel said police determined that there was no burglary attempt. The boys had run into a backyard to avoid police, Weitzel said, and a resident mistakenly believed they were trying to break into his garage.
While no one was hurt, Weitzel said it’s only a matter of time before someone carrying a replica weapon winds up being involved in a tragic incident.
“My fear is that sooner or later someone is going to walk into a situation where a resident feels that the gun is real, and it could escalate into a violent confrontation,” Weitzel said. “I am also fearful that one of officers will have to make a split-second decision, and I would not want to see a violent encounter in which officers had to discharge their firearm.”
Weitzel said when these types of incidents are called into police, they are reported as a “man with a gun.” And the BB guns are designed or can be modified in such a way that it’s hard for police to tell whether a gun is real or not.
“Take into consideration that when these boys in the latest incident fled the scene, they were running from East Burlington Street to Herrick, carrying the replica guns,” Weitzel said. “Police cannot just really stop and say, ‘Excuse me, is that real?'”
In addition, Weitzel said there are 58 residents in Riverside who have valid Illinois concealed-carry permits.
“What if one of those people confronts one of those kids?” Weitzel said.
Riverside police have had three other incidents involving BB guns since last June. In one of those incidents, a Brookfield Zoo officer called Riverside police to report a man carrying what appeared to be a handgun while walking past Riverside-Brookfield High School. The weapon turned out to be a replica Glock BB gun and the man was charged with disorderly conduct.
And on March 13, Brookfield police charged a 44-year-old man with disorderly conduct after someone called 911 to report a man riding a bicycle and waving what appeared to be a handgun while yelling at a passing motorist.