West Shore RCMP arrested and placed a man in custody overnight after he pointed an airsoft gun at a police officer.
In the late evening hours of Jan. 18, police said they responded to a rural area in Metchosin for a report of an intoxicated man who was threatening to harm himself.
Const. Nancy Saggar of West Shore RCMP said as police made their way to the scene, they received information from the complainant who lives with the man that the he left the residence with an assault rifle-style airsoft gun.
Saggar said police began searching the rural property.
“It is important to note that at the time of the response, police had not yet confirmed if the gun was in fact an airsoft gun or if it was a real long gun,” Saggar said.
Within minutes, Saggar said an officer found the distraught man who was holding the airsoft gun and yelling at police to shoot him.
Officers made their way closer to the man and gave him orders to drop the gun but he did not comply, Saggar said.
Police were about 10 feet away from the man when he brought the gun up to his shoulder and pointed it directly at an officer.
The officer, who Saggar identified as a Sgt. Lea, moved in and took control of the man who was then arrested without further issues. The airsoft gun was seized as part of the investigation.
“Sgt. Lea is a senior member of the RCMP and has received extensive training through the Emergency Response Team program,” Saggar said. “In speaking with Sgt. Lea, I have learned that he credits this training in helping him recognize the gun was an airsoft gun.”
Saggar said it is important to note that not all RCMP members are part of the Emergency Response Team and that police must respond quickly any time a gun is pointed at them to ensure their safety and the public’s safety.
Sgt. Lea was able to recognize the weapon as an airsoft rifle from 10 feet away due to his extensive training and familiarity with firearms, Saggar said. But Saggar also noted that not all officers would have been able to identify the weapon from that far away.
“[The suspect] is extremely lucky that he was not shot,” Saggar said. “This scenario could have resulted in a very traumatic ending…we are lucky to have Sgt. Lea as a part of the West Shore RCMP team.”
Saggar said the man was in custody overnight and once sober, his mental health was assessed. Saggar said after police spoke to him the next morning, it became clear to them that his decisions were “heavily influenced by his level of intoxication.”
Saggar said the man was adamant he had no intention of harming himself. Police released the man on a promise to appear with a court date of March 21.
“We want to take this opportunity to highlight the challenges of police work,” Saggar said. “This investigation was fast and dynamic. The officers involved had to make a quick assessment of the situation and act accordingly.”
Saggar said it is also important to keep in mind that airsoft guns are made to look like real guns, often equipped with night vision and high end optics.
“These guns can cause grievous bodily harm if discharged at a person,” Saggar said.