What’s Wrong With This Press Release: WI Police Respond to NERF Wars Edition

NERF Wars battleground (courtesy wsaw.com)

Wausau, WI Police Press release [via wsaw.com]:

We have done several media interviews and posted a message about this incident on our Facebook page. There are two items we would like to clarify due to the misinformation we are hearing throughout the community.

First is the issue of the police response to the call. At approximately 9:45 PM, a person called dispatch and reported several people got out of their car and pointed firearms at people in another car. Officers responded with lights and siren and located the vehicles described by the caller on Stevens Drive. Based on the information provided by the caller, officers believed there was a serious, potentially life-threatening, situation unfolding with individuals carrying firearms . . .

Because of the reported weapons involved, officers initiated a high risk vehicle contact. This is different than a normal traffic stop where an officer would approach the vehicle. In a high risk vehicle contact, the officers direct firearms at the vehicle to be ready in case someone in the vehicle would attempt to use a weapon. Officers then use the public address system in their squad car to direct the occupants of the vehicle to keep their hands over their head. Officers direct each occupant, one by one, to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward the officers. Then officers place each occupant into handcuffs, check them for weapons, and escort them to the back seat of a police car.

In this case, after all the people were removed from the vehicles, officers went up to check the vehicles for weapons. Once officers approached the vehicle, they saw the Nerf guns and concluded this incident was different than what was reported.

Officers then moved into the parking lot at Wausau West High School to open the roadway for regular traffic. They interviewed the people who were involved in the incident.

The second issue we would like to address in this press release is the decision to issue disorderly conduct citations to the six individuals involved. The basis for this decision was the disruption caused to the neighborhood, not the use of Nerf guns. This incident happened on Stevens Drive, in a residential neighborhood, on the side of the roadway. There was enough disruption to cause a neighbor’s attention to be drawn to see what was happening. The neighbor then saw what they believed to be several people brandishing firearms and pointing them at another vehicle. This resulted in the 911 call.

Attached to this press release is the letter sent home to parents as a joint effort by the Wausau School District and Wausau Police Department to make sure parents and students were aware of this game. This letter was mailed earlier this month. While we encourage our youth to have fun and make great memories, there is potential in a game like this for negative consequences should the game go too far. It is important to make good decisions. Being on the side of the road and moving around with a gun in hand will attract the attention of the neighbors and most likely scare them. This incident happened during hours of darkness and it was not apparent to the 911 caller that the guns used were Nerf guns.

We will continue to investigate this incident by reading police reports, looking at squad video, speaking to officers involved, and listening to radio transmissions to evaluate our response.

[h/t DH]

comments

  1. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Why did the students get fined?

  2. avatar Jake Tallman says:

    Isn’t abuse of 911 a felony? Why do we never ever see prosecutions for that (I’m referring to this, but also the seemingly constant “man with a gun” calls for folks who are legally open carrying)? Laws don’t dictate what you can and can’t do, they dictate punishments. In other words, a law that doesn’t have a punishment is just meaningless words written on an old piece of paper and shoved in a filing cabinet somewhere. Ditto for laws that are literally never enforced.

    1. avatar Andy in IN says:

      The problem with fining people for calling 911 for things that turn out to be trivial is that people stop calling the police. Thus when something seemingly trivial happens but is really a symptom of something worse and police aren’t called, there are negative consequences due to inaction. Police respond to crime, they don’t prevent it. So people are encouraged to call the police even on trivial matters because it could be a sign of something more sinister.

      All of this is within the context of increasingly rare “common sense.”

  3. avatar Jay says:

    If only the idiot who made the 911 call would have to pay that for this BS…

  4. avatar Paul B says:

    Wow….Just wow.

    The fine was for the public disturbance. To bad the home owner cannot be fined for stupidity. Not many nerf guns look like real guns.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Oh, be nice. It was dark, remember? Sounds to me like everybody should have had a good laugh, discussed lessons learned, and gone home. The fines are silly, probably has to do with the department covering their rumps.

      1. avatar Gerald says:

        I was actually relieved the cops didn’t shoot, like the officer in California who killed a 13 year old, who had an airsoft AK-47

  5. avatar John says:

    I don’t understand why the fine. I mean, I get that there was a public disturbance, but the people causing disruption to the neighborhood were in fact the 911 caller and the police. Youths playing with Nerf guns did not interrupt anyone; that was the choice of others.

  6. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    Were these bright yellow or orange Nerf guns? If so, the caller is a moron.

  7. avatar Gerald says:

    Sorry folks, can;t agree with posters here. This happened at 9:45pm. In darkness! How is the 911 caller to know that these are not real guns? How many of us can see clearly, from a distance, in the dark, to differentiate between real guns, and toys? The officers took understandable precautions. A street was cordoned off, citizens were disturbed. Perhaps the fines were a bit high, but hey, deciding to play such a game in the dark, in moving vehicles? It was probably a spur of the moment decision, but not a good one.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Oh, I don’t know… by maybe using their ears too?

      1. avatar Gerald says:

        So we should wait until someone actually starts shooting to call the cops? Isn’t that going to lengthen response times?

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Where they are should be a player, too. Is there normally a lot of gang shootings in the neighborhood? Has there never been a gang shooting in the ‘hood? It sounds like a quiet area where the cops wanted to try out their operator moves.

        1. avatar Gerald says:

          Valid questions, something none of us, safe at home an armed with a laptop (Along with a number of wonderful firearms (Yay) can actually answer. I would like to know, though.

    2. avatar William Burke says:

      Were the Nerf guns going BOOM! BOOM!! BOOM!!!?

      Of course not. Anyone with half a brain knows REAL guns make a loud noise. The called is an imbecile, and so are the cops. THEY are ones who should be fined.

      Nerfpanik in the Year Zero.

      1. avatar Gerald says:

        Or maybe play their game in daylight, where it;s obvious what;s flying around are foam darts, not bullets.

        1. avatar Mike says:

          Nerf guns are brightly colored. Obnoxiously so. Even in darkness, it should’ve been evident.

        2. avatar Gerald says:

          I have no idea, perhaps too far away to tell in the dark, the one thing I know for certain is none of us were there to see

        3. avatar New Continental Army says:

          Except no crime was committed. Except maybe by the caller. How can you advocate punishing someone who has done nothing wrong? Whats wrong with you? do you just like watching people get punished?

          And what kind of guns do you shoot than the ammo can be confused with nerf rounds, even in pitch dark? what are you doing on this site?

        4. avatar Gerald says:

          No but responding officers had no idea a crime was not being committed. And it seems that the fines are being rescinded. For that matter, how far away was the 911 caller? Should it have been obvious? From the comfort of my couch, I have no idea.

        5. avatar Charles says:

          Unfortunately with the newer guns coming out that are all kinds of different colors it is much harder to tell if a gun is even real until the damn thing goes off. I have tried to tell manufacturers about coloring their guns being a bad idea, but they seem to think that I am nothing more than a smart ass.

        6. avatar MikeP says:

          I think one of the biggest issues here re: identifying real vs “obviously” fake guns is for many “guns are icky” types, they actually cannot tell the difference. No matter how orange, yellow, or Super-Soaker looking. If it looks remotely, vaguely, like it might be an automatic assault shoulder thing that goes up, capable of firing 30 calibers per second, then by God the cops are getting called.

  8. avatar SouthernPatriot says:

    Eyewitness testimony is suspect, even in better cases. People often think they see something that they really did not see. This is the case here. People over react due to the public outcry about shootings by news media who often seem to report little else. I cannot really blame those who reported the sighting of guns, which obviously they did see, albeit Nerf guns.

    I can fault the police for making any charges at all. Maybe a warning to those with the Nerf guns and what could happen, and let it be. Over-reaction by police? Probably not, the original response. However, the response of filing charges is definitely and over-reach.

    1. avatar Gerald says:

      Police usually don’t file charges, that is something done by the D.A.

      1. avatar Ken says:

        Yes, police do file charges. The DA decides whether and how prosecution of those charges proceeds.

        1. avatar Gerald says:

          Ok I stand corrected, or sit corrected that is. Here all charges not traffic violation related, are decided by the DA

        2. avatar Russ Bixby says:

          No, they don’t. They cite; not the same thing.

          Upon investigation, the police can recommend charges, and arrest and charge, but they don’t file charges.

          Filing is a court thing.

  9. avatar Another Robert says:

    Went to the link, I see the citations have been “dismissed” contingent on the students taking part in a “presentation” on the dangers of playing with NERF guns. I guess, as in, someone might mistake them for real guns and you might get shot by a police officer. I really would like to see a photo or something of the “guns” involved.

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    This is right up there with a gunshaped pop tart. The cops are total re#$&ds. Codified insanity.

  11. avatar Pashtun6 says:

    There seriously needs to be a fine for stupidity

  12. avatar Charles says:

    Well, in defense of the community, all we saw on Facebook (first report) was that kids were playing a nerf battle and someone called police, so we didn’t know if they were in a park playing or how old they were, just that kids were having a nerf battle.

    I do know now though that the fines/citations were dropped.

    1. avatar Gerald says:

      If I am reading the release correctly, they were outside of vehicles, in the dark, and playing in the street. I wasn’t there so I have to rely on the reports.

  13. avatar Jake_in_AK says:

    What I don’t get, is people are saying it was dark, at only nine fourty five in the evening.
    How could it be so dark as to confuse a nerf gun with a firearm at that time in the summer.
    I get that it gets darker down south, but the sun doesn’t even set untill eleven up here.
    How dark was it, exactly?

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      Sunset for today is 8:02 PM. According to the news story the game started on the campus (or campus parking lot) and moved to the street.

    2. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

      Jake, FWIW … as someone who has lived in both Alaska and Outside, I can tell you that both the amount of sunlight and the timing of it is much different up north than it is in the lower 48.

      For one thing, the twilight hours after sunset last much longer up there than they do further south. There’s simply less time after sunset for it to be bright. As I’m typing this right now (9 pm ET, sunset was just over an hour ago) it is very dark here (i.e. much darker than it ever gets in June in Anchorage).

      Additionally, the change day-to-day is far, far more gradual. Around the equinox, Anchorage gains an hour of sunlight in about 11 days. That’s about twice as fast as most places in the south.

      And finally, just based on geography, most of Alaska (other than Southeast) is way off from it’s “true” time zone. It really should be one hour further behind (e.g. 11 pm there should actually be 10 pm).

      Hope this helps.

      1. avatar Jake_in_AK says:

        That does help. After I posted here, I happened to talk to a friend who’s still stuck down in the lesser 48. I mean lower… Yeah.
        Didn’t quite “get” that you guys get actual night in summer- I’m in Fairbanks, and am used to from end of April to middle of September, being able to see without artificial light nearly 24 hrs.
        Not quite sure how I’d feel about needing flashlights in summer.

        Heck, up here the sun doesn’t really set, just touch the horizon from June 19 to June 24.

        I can now see how confusion might have happened. I still think the charges were silly.

  14. avatar Jumbie says:

    The disorderly conduct citation is just power tripping. Read the words in the press release:

    “there is potential in a game like this for negative consequences should the game go too far”

    BULL POOP!

    What series of unlikely hypothetical events would have to take place to make this game in itself have serious consequences? (I’m not talking about speeding etc since those would be quantifiable offenses. in their own right)

    The game itself has no serious potential consequences worthy of a citation.

    The citation was just thrown in there for the police to vent their frustration and embarrassment.

  15. avatar Al says:

    The police chief voided the disorderly conduct charges.
    http://m.jsonline.com/more/news/crime/police-void-citations-for-wausau-students-nerf-gun-war-b99258385z1-257141651.html

    Wisconsin is a battleground state, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if some gun-hating hack called it in, knowing what was going on.

    This Nerf war is a tradition for the graduating class. No way anyone mistook this for anything but what it was.

  16. avatar Alex in IL says:

    “While we encourage our youth to have fun and make great memories, there is potential in a game like this for negative consequences should the game go too far.”

    Like what? A lamp getting knocked over? That’s about how much impact these ‘weapons’ have.

    But on the bright side, the police got to gear up!

  17. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    I’m a day late on this one, but I wanted to look into it a bit more.

    First, to speak from experience with my son (and my) considerable Nerf arsenal, there aren’t many bright yellow and orange Nerf guns these days. They tend to be dark blue and silver. They still have the orange muzzle tip and the magazines are still orange. On a standard 6 or 12 round mag, though, not much will be visible. Now that most use mags, Nerfs have taken a real tacticool turn with rails, scopes, lasers, lights, stocks, etc. All interchangeable. I can see how they could be mistaken by someone in the dark. Some adult-sized unknowns running around in the dark with some of my son’s newer Nerfs could end up hurt. And in this case, it sounds like they were shooting out of cars, to boot. This is PURE speculation base on my own youth, but it almost sounds like there was some car chase involve.

    It also appears that in the story this has become the big “senioritis” thing and it had been getting out of hand. As in becoming a recurring issue of trespassing, property damage and (I don’t get this, but) stripping. The “warning” letter that was released on it was before this incident not a result and because it would only be a matter of time before someone got hurt. Once on the scene, I’m sure the police figured out fairly quickly these were just Nerf guns but wanted to make a point. Having known a few cops, I’m sure they were just as happy to drop the citations once they got their point across to the kids, and what I’ve read on it seems consistent with that. It was moving that way even before the media attention. I’ve use the “make ’em sweat” tactic myself with my son.

    There’s some good reason to think this had nothing to do with guns; or rather the anti-gunnies. The letter from the school didn’t complain about the game or guns or violence. In fact, in encouraged them to have fun, but warned them they needed to keep it safe. Don’t forget the incident happened on school grounds (though, after hours) and yet there’s been no “zero tolerance” outcry. Likewise, the school has brushed off the incident with the citations dropped. There has still been no call to ban the game or decry Nerf guns. It’s still a case of “have fun, but use your head.”

    By the way… my favorite Nerf configuration? A Retaliator Elite receiver with a collapsible M4 style stock, the extended rifled barrel from a Longshot, adjustable rear peep sight, front hand grip and my 35-round drum. Great looks, no bright yellow and accurate to 50′ when sighted in.

  18. avatar Jason says:

    We use to have BB gun wars, some old hag just wanted something to do. All of the nerf guns I’ve seen look like space guns. I was watching cops, the show, the other night and some old jersey hag had called the cops because the kids were playing basket ball to close to her fence, maybe 30 feet at the closest. So the cop came up, talked to her and finally said he would have them move it. They moved it about 3 feet, the cop played B ball with them and the lady was pissed.

    Those cops just wanted to play halo or something. When they got showed up by a bunch of kids, they were pissed.

  19. avatar Lfshtr says:

    They have to get over carry of guns, Consitution says we have our rights it’s all BS.

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