Sheriff’s deputy nearly blew man away

BY JOHN L. GUERRA

NEWS WRITER

Police departments around the country have for years been warning the public that certain toy guns can get them killed.

A Monroe County Sheriff’s sergeant was an eyelash pull away from shooting a man in the street in Marathon because his target had an Airsoft gun in his hand. Airsoft guns are replicas of the real thing and shoot 6 mm pellets, also known as BBs. They also cost as much as real guns; some go for as much as $300, according to Airsoft Corp.

To anyone who sees one at a distance, the only difference between Airsoft guns and real weapons–they produce replicas from Glocks to submachine guns–is a red tip on the barrel or other gun part. Many people paint over the red to better replicate the real gun.

According to Monroe County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Becky Herrin, Sgt. Dennis Coleman came across a man carrying a gun while on patrol on U.S. 1 during lunch hour near Marathon City Hall. The man, Wayne Michaelson, 44, was waving the gun around in the street.

Coleman pulled up behind Michaelson, exited his cruiser, pulled his weapon, and ordered Michaelson to put down his gun, Herrin said.

“Michaelson did lie down on the ground, but he kept the gun and a plastic bag at his side,” Herrin reported. “As the sergeant continued to give him orders, Michaelson brought the firearm up in front of him and pointed it at Coleman.

Coleman applied pressure on his trigger “in preparation to shoot Michaelson,” Herrin wrote in her press report. “Suddenly, Michaelson put the gun down, placing it in the plastic bag and saving his own life.”

Coleman and other officers who had arrived as backup subdued Michaelson, cuffed him and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest with violence, Herrin said.

Michaelson reportedly told police that he bought the gun to protect 110th Street from drug dealers and prostitutes. He also told police he felt threatened by speeding cars on the street that “made noises,” Herrin wrote, quoting the suspect.

Airsoft guns have been more than headaches for police departments around the nation. Police officers have suffered guilt and traumatic stress after mistakenly shooting people carrying the replica guns.

In Sonoma County, Calif., last October, a sheriff’s deputy shot a 13-year-old as the child walked down the street with a plastic Airsoft rifle replica. In January, Yakima, Wash., police officer shot and killed a man in his car. He had an Airsoft gun on the seat; though the gun had a red tip, in the 3 a.m. light the officer reacted before he could determine the gun was fake, newspapers reported.