Los Angeles police shot and killed a teen outside his home after mistaking his airsoft gun for a rifle. Only after the teen lay bleeding on the ground did they realize the weapon wasn’t real.
“It’s a toy,” the father yells in body-camera video, released Sept. 24 by the LAPD.
It’s just the latest example of police shooting an individual holding a realistic-looking toy weapon.
Luis Herrera, 19, died in front of his Vermont Vista home on Sept. 17, after an LAPD officer shot him eight times. The officer who fired his service weapon, Luis Navarrete, has been placed on administrative leave, according to the department. His partner has not been named.
Navarrete and his partner were responding to two 911 calls made by Herrera reporting an ongoing domestic violence situation sometime that afternoon, police say. Herrera told a dispatcher that his dad had been drinking and attacked his mom and then when he tried to intervene, his dad then attacked him.
When asked if a paramedic should be sent over, Herrera specified that they only needed cops to come and intervene.
The responding officers showed up at the home at 1:20 p.m., and Herrera opened the door and had a rifle pointed at them, body-camera footage shows.
“Hey, whoa, hey, put that down! Put that down!” one of the officers says as the teen approaches them. The officers back away toward the side of the home and finds cover behind some garbage cans.
Within six seconds of encountering Herrera, Navarette fires his service weapon.
As Herrera lays on the ground, his family can be heard screaming in Spanish off-camera, and Herrera’s father attempts to walk over to his son as he bleeds out, but one of the officers orders him to stop.
“That’s my son!” Herrera’s mother screams. “He’s my son!”
Another police team arrives on the scene and handcuffs Herrera, who’s bleeding, before the video ends. He was pronounced dead shortly after paramedics arrived on the scene.
Police later confirmed that the rifle was an airsoft gun. In addition to the rifle, Herrera was also carrying an airsoft pistol at the time of the shooting. Police also say they found no evidence that a domestic violence situation had occurred between Herrera’s father and mother as described by their son.
“The officers gave Herrera commands to drop the rifle. However, Herrera did not comply,” police said. “Herrera shouldered the rifle and pointed it at the officers, resulting in an OIS [officer involved shooting]. Herrera was struck by gunfire and fell to the ground.”
Captain Kelly Muñiz, the LAPD’s head of media relations, said the department will investigate the incident in the coming months and send its findings to the Critical Incident Review Division and the chief of police, who will then hand his recommendation to the city’s Board of Police. The board will have the final say on whether officer Navarrete will keep his job.
Airsoft guns, typically loaded with nonlethal projectiles, have repeatedly made an appearance in deadly situations with law enforcement this year. While most airsoft guns are modeled to look like toys, some users have painted them all black to resemble a real firearm. These modified versions have been used as part of a viral TikTok trend known as the #OrbeezChallenge, which encourages participants to shoot gelatinous water pellets at unknowing strangers or other participants.
Most recently, an 18-year-old in the Bronx was shot and killed in July after he pointed a toy gun at an off-duty corrections officer. Several police departments in Florida, Texas, and, most recently, New York, have even warned people about the dangers of using a toy firearm in public.
The shootings bring to memory the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by a Cleveland police officer in 2014 after cops saw him playing with a toy gun at a neighborhood recreation center.
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