Woodward, Okla. —
A TEACHING MOMENT
However, both the superintendent and Officer Brown said that the juvenile carrying the weapons could have been hurt.
"I know they're airsoft guns, but they look real," Brown said. "I told him (the juvenile), 'you don't know how close you came to being hurt because even the neighbors saw you and thought you had real firearms.'"
Officer Woods commented that one of the airsoft rifles "looks just like an AR-14."
"I feel so strongly for law enforcement officials when they're faced with a situation like this because of the realistic look that so many of these toy guns have," Merchant said.
The superintendent continued, "In a situation such as this I feel pretty strongly fortunate that the young man is still alive and that it turned out the way it did. Because when law enforcement officials respond to a situation they cannot tell at a distance. You cannot tell until close inspection whether it's real or airsoft or a play gun."
But as school safety procedures have evolved in response to numerous school shootings, Merchant said that "officers and schools are forced to react to the situation as if it were a real gun."
Which as Brown has told school personnel in previous intruder response training scenarios held earlier this year, can sometimes mean shooting first and asking questions later if officers perceive an active threat.
Merchant said that the situation at Highland Park on Monday "is a definite teaching time for parents to understand the atmosphere and world of school safety today."
"It's just a point of caution to parents to talk their kids if they allow them to have airsoft or bb guns or even a toy gun. Parents need to teach children when and where those types of toys can be out and played with," the superintendent said. "Because not knowing puts their children in danger, especially when it's around schools or other known live shooter situation climates such as churches or movie theaters."