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Officers trained to respond the same when firearm or airsoft gun is pointed at them

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Posted at 7:25 PM, Feb 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-17 09:29:16-05

PROVO, Utah -- Provo police and officials with the Fraternal Order of Police agreed toy guns make a police officer’s job more difficult.

But when it comes to a suspect threatening the life of an officer by pointing a real or fake weapon at an officer, that officer’s response training should be the same.

"The officers were in fear for their lives and that's why they engaged the suspect with three rounds,” said Lt. Brandon Post with Provo Police Department.

According to Provo police, the two officers that shot and killed 24-year-old Cody Evans Sunday morning after he allegedly pointed his

airsoft rifle at them, didn’t know the gun was fake.

"He was gesturing toward the officers as if it were a real weapon and he was wearing a tactical vest with a holster on it, which also added to the situation,” Post said.

Evans’ gun was missing the orange tip, which is the clearest identifier that a gun is loaded with BBs rather than bullets.

"If somebody is going to modify one of these airsoft rifles to look real and convince the public and convince police, what are police supposed to do? They have to protect the community and their lives and others,” said Officer Ian Adams with the Utah Fraternal Order of Police.

Adams dealt with a similar situation in July 2014 when 31-year-old Timothy Peterson pointed a piece of bent metal with laser taped to it in a dark parking lot at the officer.

Adams fired in self-defense.

"The reality is that a police officer and his family have to protect themselves even off duty these days unfortunately. We do get death threats; departments get death threats following this sort of incident,” Adams said.

Peterson was hit twice in the leg and buttocks and survived.

In November 2014 a 12-year-old was shot and killed by Cleveland police after the boy pointed a toy gun at officers. The orange tip had also been removed from that gun.

Airsoft tactical owner Aaron Radl said it’s common sense not to point a weapon at an officer and the orange tip shouldn't be the reason an officer hesitates.

"You can easily paint a real gun and it could look pink or orange and if someone wants to paint a real gun orange and make that officer hesitate to think that it's a toy gun then that's a jeopardy you're putting that police officer in,” Radl said.

Radl doesn’t just sell airsoft guns. He trains, educates and participates in the sport as well. He’s quick to correct anyone who calls the BB gun a toy.

“It’ll knock your teeth out at around 200 feet away and it could puncture the eye or in the ear canal, cause abrasions or bruises on you,” Radl said.

But federal law doesn’t really care if it’s real or not, it’s how it’s used.

If someone were to, for example, attempt a robbery with an airsoft gun, they would be charged as if the airsoft gun were a real firearm. The same is true if the airsoft gun is pointed at an officer.

"Odds are if you point a weapon at an officer while he is on duty, real or not, there's going to be a gun fight. Officers have the right to go home at the end of their shift and they need to protect themselves,” Post said.