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Authorities defend response to toy gun seen in online class

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Authorities are defending their decision to send two school resource officers to a Colorado home where a 12-year-old Black boy pointed a gun that turned out to be a toy at a friend during an online class they were taking together.

Following criticism from the boy’s mother about how the school and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office handled the Aug. 27 situation, the sheriff’s office on Thursday released body camera video of the officers’ visit as well as a quick clip showing the boy briefly aiming the gun at the other as they appear to be horsing around.

In a statement, the sheriff’s office said the school contacted them out of concern for the welfare of the students and said the teacher did not know if the gun was real or not.

The body camera footage shows officers talking to the father of one of the boys, and then speaking with the boys. The officer who mainly spoke said they were not going to charge the boys with the crime of interfering with a school but said they could and also said they would if it happened again. He told the father that besides checking on whether the gun was real they wanted to the boys to know how serious the situation was.

“The School Resource Officer took the appropriate action and was kind and respectful throughout the interaction. His goal was to educate the involved parties,” the office said.

In a Facebook video, the mother of the boy with the toy gun, Dani Elliott, said the school called the sheriff’s office after she told school officials that it was a toy. When she later learned that the officers were going to her house, Elliott, who was not home, said she was afraid for her son’s safety and called him to tell him to put the gun on the counter and hide in the basement.

Elliott said she feared her son could face the same fate as Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy who was shot and killed by a police officer in Cleveland in 2014 while holding a toy gun. Even now she thinks he will be scarred by the experience, his first encounter with law enforcement officers.

“This is going to have a lifelong impact on my son,” she said.

In a statement to The Gazette, the Widefield School District #3 said it was looking “at the bigger picture” and wanted to focus on working with the family.

“We are focused on collaborative problem-solving and examining our current system and how it fits in the world today. Our hope is to move forward as a district, as a community, and as a society,” it said.

The Associated Press

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