The shooting and killing of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Airsoft-wielding boy shot by a Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann seconds after he arrived on the scene, did not go unnoticed in St. Louis. Someone at the St. Louis County Police Fenton precinct Facebooked parental advice on faux firearms for friends and families whose children might play with toy guns. Here’s the text, since disappeared down the memory hole (paragraph breaks added) . . .
On November 22nd 2014, a Cleveland Police Officer shot 12 year old Tamir Rice who had his hand on an Airsoft pistol. The Airsoft pistol had the orange warning tip removed. I do not know all the details of the story; I encourage you to research reliable resources and educated yourself about the incident. This article is not about this a boy losing his life, whether this was a justified shooting or, whether the cops acted too fast. This is about the Fenton Precinct making residents aware of a “hot” topic and learning from this incident so Fenton never loses a child’s life.
If you or your children have an Airsoft or pellet gun please sit them down and talk to them about this tragedy. Your children should have rules for “toy” guns that mirror the rules of a real weapon. Pellet guns and Airsoft guns should not be allowed to be played with throughout the neighborhood, common grounds, or used to threaten or intimidate people.
Pellet guns have no orange warning tip because they are considered weapons; Airsoft guns do have orange tip. Please inspect your child’s Airsoft gun to make sure the orange tip has not been altered or removed. These guns are very realistic.
Pellet gun laws are the same as any weapon in the City of Fenton. Children cannot carry a weapon and they cannot shoot this weapon within the city limits. Airsoft guns are considered toys, but city ordinance prohibits the “shooting of any projectile within the city limits”. Warn them that these “toys” do look like real guns and could result in the police getting called on them. The police may get called to respond to “a child with a gun”, “maybe a toy gun”, it is important to know how officers are trained to respond.
If the type of gun is in question by the witness, the Police will respond as though it is a real gun until it can be confirmed one way or the other. Remember if an Airsoft pistol is tucked in your pants like a holster then obviously the orange tip is no longer visible. The police will respond lights and sirens and come to a screeching halt in the area where your child is playing with the gun. Here are some tips to help your child respond appropriately.
Do not run away. They need to no longer have the gun in their hands, throw it away from them. They need to comply with officers instructions. They may be ordered to lie down on the ground. Clear communication between your child and the police is essential. Police need to know that it is a toy gun; I do hope I am explaining a scenario that will never happen in our area.
So again, “kids will be kids”, and your children will continue playing war in the common grounds. Share this with your children; tell this story to families that might need this information, and encourage your kids to talk to classmates about this. Working together we will keep our community a safe place.
That didn’t go down well with the general public. So Chief John Belmar ordered the advice deep-sixed and issued the following apology [via Facebook]:
“On Thursday, December 4, 2014, an officer assigned to the St. Louis County City of Fenton Precinct made a post on the precinct Facebook site that spoke about the death of 12 year-old, Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio. The intention of the post was to inform citizens about the potential danger of airsoft or pellet guns resembling real guns. However, the post was a misguided communication strategy and was offensive to many people.
As Chief of Police, I apologize to Tamir’s family and anyone who was offended by the post. While the post did not originate from the Chief’s Office and I was unaware of its presence prior to its release, I realize the message was insensitive to Tamir’s family and the sorrow they are currently experiencing.
The post conveyed the message that my officers respond to calls involving a child with a gun with indiscretion and little regard for life. I want to emphasize that my officers respond to calls with discernment, and have the highest regard for human life. We train officers to take all facts and circumstances into consideration when making decisions about using force.
The Facebook post has been removed and because of this incident, the social media policy has been altered in order to prevent future occurrences. I know social media is an effective way to provide the public with information, and I will make every effort to ensure that we do it in a responsible manner. Our continued thoughts and prayers go out to Tamir’s family in this trying time.”