Glimpse of gun results in cautious traffic stop

Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Bang! Bang!

It is an image parents see frequently, their little boy holding a toy pistol like a police officer, shooting the bad guys he cooked up with his imagination.

Just like all of bad guys the boy had shot down before, he shoots another with his toy gun -- except this time the bad guy is a driver in the car next to the van the boy is riding in.

What happens then?

"The majority of little kids, boys especially, have toy guns," said Sgt. Chuck Kopp of the Kenai Police Department. "Parents should be careful where their kids play with these toys, especially in a traffic environment where another driver could see the weapon and is not sure what is going on."

That was the case Monday when Alaska State Troopers and Kenai police received a call of someone in the backseat of a van brandishing a weapon.

"The troopers stopped the vehicle at the Video Place and Kenai police then contacted them," Kopp said. "It was a family, a mom and some kids. The situation ended up being some little kids just having some fun."

Kenai police made no arrests in the incident because there was no intent by the children to harm anyone.

According to Kopp, it all came down to a case of confusion by a passing driver.

"It is understandable that we get calls like this," he said. "Especially in these days where you see more and more road rage. When you see a gun in the window of a car, you don't usually keep looking to see if it is a bunch of kids.

"In this case, it was just a concerned caller who had seen the weapon and was just making sure that the gun wasn't real."

Without prior knowledge of if the weapon is real or not, how do police enter a situation like this one?

"Very carefully," Kopp said. "You can usually assess people and circumstances fairly quickly.

"You should just be careful where your kids play with (toy) weapons. If you are, then you prevent alarm, confusion and unnecessary panic."

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