RAMAPO, N.Y. -- A scary encounter with a bike theft suspect in Airmont could have ended in tragedy, Ramapo police said.
An officer who had approached the man behind a shopping center in the village Thursday saw what he thought was a pistol in his hand, police said.
The officer shouted at him to put the object down, and, after hesitating slightly, he did, police said.
The pistol turned out to be a BB or pellet gun.
The incident points out the danger of scenarios where officers only have a split second to decide if a suspect is holding a real gun -- or a wallet, cell phone, or other harmless thing, police said.
According to media reports citing nationwide statistics, law enforcement officers killed close to 30 people holding BB or pellet guns in 2015.
The mounting number of such fatalities across the country has spurred some lawmakers and activists to call for tighter regulations on the design of non-lethal guns that look like real firearms.
It was due to the police officer’s training, and luck, that the Airmont incident didn’t end up “with lethal force being used,” police said.
They posted a photo of a real weapon side by side with a pellet gun to show how similar they look.
“Which one is real? You have less than a second to decide!,” said the post.
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