A recent move by police in El Paso, Colorado reveals just how disastrously disconnected many Americans and so-called “law enforcement officers” are from the reality about guns.
Thanks to the work of Fox 21 News in Colorado Springs, we are now discovering that in July of last year, police handcuffed and arrested two 10-year-old boys who were playing with an orange foam crossbow toy and a toy shotgun.
Fox 21 investigated and found that the boys were fans of the video game "Fortnite." They had gone outside and, inspired to pretend role-play based on the game, made a dumb decision: they pointed their toys at passing automobiles and their drivers.
Said Gavin Carpenter, one of the children dragged away by police:
The toy bow was an orange Nerf bow. It didn’t work. Nothing could shoot out of it. Nothing would come out of it. The weapon, well toy I had, had an orange tip. It was also broken and couldn’t shoot anything out of it.
But, as some might understand, a driver viewed the boys’ play as threatening. He slammed on the brakes and threw his car into reverse, as the kids fled to Gavin’s friend’s grandparent’s house. The driver followed them and ultimately called the cops.
The man called the police. According to the Carpenter family, El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested both Gavin and his friend. He was handcuffed and taken to the Colorado Springs Police Department for mugshots and fingerprinting.
And the boys became caught-up in a bureaucratic nightmare, because the DA wouldn’t drop the charges of felony “threatening."
'It was just a hard no, that the District Attorney wasn’t going to throw this out,' Gavin’s father Chris said. 'That is when we moved into the diversion program.'
And the so-called “diversion program” required the boys to work for 216 days doing “community service” and write about how wrong they were.
Says Gavin’s dad, Chris:
So if you run his name, nothing will show up, but he did have a Class Five Felony on there for at least half a year.
From the kids to the driver to the government, at each step in this ridiculous path, the problem got worse. Certainly, the kids shouldn’t have gone out with toys and pretended to shoot at cars while their imaginations filled in the blanks and created a playtime adventure. But was this an error that required a man to start shouting and then call the police? Was this a problem requiring the police to respond, or to go even further and arrest the boys, handcuff them, and see them fingerprinted and charged with major felonies?
Was this an error that required any form of apologetic restitution toward anyone who was harmed?
Was anyone harmed?
Of course not.
Meanwhile, Gavin’s father reflects on the entire tortuous experience, saying, "We're trying to establish now for the boys a few events to help build trust in law enforcement because it was shattered."
That’s for sure. And it might behoove the county and local officials to establish a few “events” to train their tax-funded employees to stop being so fearful of toy guns and kids’ games, and realize when punishment is completely out of proportion with a childish error.
Learning opportunities all around, perhaps.