FOX 8 I-Team: How often Cleveland police encounter ‘fake’ gun cases

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( Courtesy: Cleveland Police)

CLEVELAND- A violent attack has put a new spotlight on BB guns and air pistols that look like powerful handguns, so the I-Team did some digging to find out just how often they are being used in crimes.

Police say that attack involved a 15-year-old with a BB gun that appeared to be a traditional handgun. Police say last week the teen held up a woman at a westside bar and groped her.

Monday, Cleveland police also caught a 15-year-old on East 121 with a BB gun that looked like a handgun.

And of course, investigators are still looking into the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Last November, an officer shot and killed him outside The Cudell rec center as he held an airsoft pellet gun that looked much more powerful.

The I-Team found Cleveland police are making reports for “facsimile firearms” sometimes dozens of times a year. Police can file a charge when something like a powerful-looking BB gun gets used in a threatening or alarming manner.

Records show before the incident last week, Cleveland police had already filed reports in 5 of these cases. They included a teen arrested at the Tower City complex downtown plus other juveniles suspected of terrorizing senior citizens on the east side.

Records also show 11 of these reports in Cleveland for 2014, 17 in 2013, and 30 in 2012.

Officers on the street tell the I-Team the BB guns or airsoft pistols that look powerful can be dangerous because victims and police often can’t tell the difference. We’ve seen how that can lead to sudden and violent reactions.