Fake gun incident highlights law enforcement challenges

From afar, Knight saw the drunk man take off his shirt, pull a gun, then point it at another man. At the same time, two Slidell police officers were pulling into the gas station by coincidence.

SLIDELL-  The curb at the Chevron on Gause and Tyler is one of few places David Knight has to get out of the heat.

Tuesday, it was the last place he wanted to be.

"The first thing he did when he walked up, he was talking crazy, 'Don't think I won't shoot somebody,'" Knight recalled about a homeless man he had never seen before, "I said I don't need this."

From afar, Knight saw the drunk man take off his shirt, pull a gun, then point it at another man.  At the same time, two Slidell police officers were pulling into the gas station by coincidence.

"They immediately jumped out of the truck and pulled out their weapons and said 'hit the ground, hit the ground or I'll shoot you and he hit the ground,'" said Knight.

When the officers got a hold of the gun from the man, identified as Wilburn McCullom, they quickly realized it was an airsoft gun.

"If you try to manipulate this, the slide does not come back," explained Asst. Chief Kevin Swann, "Then, the magazine would come out of here, it is unable on this weapon, at that point though, it would be too late for an officer in a split-second decision."

Swann credits the two officers' training and SWAT experience for resolving the incident safely.  But he says making the quick call, fake or real, is a daily battle for all law enforcement.

"We are disappointed in the manufacturers, we wish the legislation, both on a national and state level, would have some kind of markings so somebody would know this is not a firearm," he said.

The incident isn't just an example of how police have to adjust their interactions with the community, but also how the community can communicate better with police.

"If anybody is armed, they need to identify that," said Swann, "You're the officer, and I happen to be the person that is armed.  You introduce yourself, my name is Kevin Swann, I am armed, it is in my waistband, my hands are up here, you can please try to retrieve it. That way there's no confusion."

And leads to a safe ending, like this situation, which could have easily had a tragic ending.

McCullom was booked Aggravated Assault, Public Intoxication and Open Container of Alcohol.

(© 2016 WWL)


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