It was a close call in Merriam on Thursday after a cop, who thought he was facing an active shooter, actually had his gun pointed at a kid.
About 8:19 a.m., police said they got a report of a van pulling up to a home in the area of Robinhood Lane, just off Shawnee Mission Parkway. Neighbors said three people in full camouflage carrying rifles jumped out and ran to the back yard. But police said an officer noticing a minor detail helped avert a deadly shooting.
Police said a concerned neighbor called 911 in the morning, worried about several people in tactical gear with what looked like real rifles running through the yard.
Master Police Officer Corey Heron and a colleague were the first on the scene. They entered the yard looking for the gunmen, turned a corner and heard something behind them.
"One of the subjects shouldered a rifle and pointed it in our direction," Heron said.
Heron's training kicked in. He raised his own weapon, ready to defend himself.
"I had pressure on the trigger," he said.
Heron said he was 60 yards away and the threat looked legitimate until he noticed one minor detail - a small orange strip on the barrel of the person's weapon.
"If there's a threat, we are trained to eliminate the threat. It's pure luck, I saw orange," he said.
Turns out the people dressed in camo were just a bunch of teenagers and the rifles they were holding were airsoft guns that shoot plastic pellets.
One website describes them as, "replica firearms used in airsoft that fire plastic pellets by way of compressed gas or electric and/or spring-driven pistons." It goes on to say that, "these guns are designed to be non-lethal and to provide realistic replicas."
Scott Thompson owns the home the boys were playing at and he said they're all friends with his son and all involved in Reserve Officers' Training Course or ROTC.
Thompson said they were training for an airsoft competition. He thinks police and neighbors overreacted and saw nothing wrong with what they were doing.
"The kids like it. I'd rather them play here then have them driving out on the street doing their stuff," Thompson said.
Even though Heron was in full gear, clearly marked as police, the kid who pointed his airsoft gun at him later said he thought he was on the opposing team.
Heron has some advice for the 15-year-old.
"In general, guns are guns. I've taught my kids, airsoft guns, bb guns or my own rifle, don't point at anything you don't want to destroy," he said.
Police won't file any charges and they said the boy will soon get his airsoft gun back.
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