COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Shock, fear, and gratitude. Those are just a few of the emotions a Columbus mother was feeling after an officer brought her 11-year-old home and showed her the realistic-looking BB gun that nearly lost the boy his life.
Columbus Police officer Peter Casuccio responded to a call about young men with a gun Saturday afternoon, with his weapon drawn. As he stepped out of his patrol car, the 11-year-old suddenly pulled out the pellet gun to drop it on the ground. As the gun hit the sidewalk it broke into pieces and in that millisecond hesitation, Casuccio realized it wasn't a real gun.
The lecture he gave to the 11-year-old and his 13-year-old friend was captured on the bodycam. "Do you think I want to shoot and 11 year-old?," he can be heard asking the boys. "Do you think I want to shoot a 13 year-old?"
Tielissa Sowell knows the dangers that Saturday afternoon posed to her young son, lamenting that she nearly lost him. As the officer walked the boy to the door after driving him home, she saw the gun and the bodycam video captured her reaction, immediately telling her son he could've been killed.
"He's my only child," Sowell said. "I could have lost him, I really could have."
Sowell said she didn't know her son had the weapon and that he's not allowed to play with realistic-looking guns. She said her son saw the story about the encounter on the news and cried, realizing how close he had come to being shot.
"Yeah, I started crying myself because I could have lost my child," she said.
The pellet guns are similar to paintball guns, using a CO2 cartridge to fire a pellet. In 2014 Tamir Rice was carrying a similar gun when he was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer who was responding to a gun call. Then, in 2016, a Columbus police officer shot and killed Tyre King, after mistaking a similar gun for a real firearm.
So why do kids carry these weapons which can so easily be mistaken for the real thing?
"Many of them were carrying them around to look tough," said Sgt. Chantay Boxill, a Columbus Police spokesperson.
At least one mom hopes the encounter scared that desire out of her son, so he continues to come home safe.