Concerned shoppers at the Rivergate Mall called 911 Monday afternoon after seeing three young men walking with what appeared to be handguns near the shopping complex.
The shoppers told Goodlettsville police the young men were at Rafferty Restaurant on Gallatin Pike and were walking in a threatening manner with the guns sticking out of their waistbands.
Goodlettsville police immediately responded and did a felony take down behind the Pizza Hut on Rivergate Pkwy.
Officer Matt Holst was one of the first on the scene.
He told Nashville's News 2 Investigates Friday he exited his cruiser with his gun out and ordered the young men to the ground.
He recalled, "We had a high risk arrest and we drew our weapons and ordered them to ground. They complied and we got them into cuffs and located the weapons."
The two brothers and their cousin, ages 12, 14 and 15, had authentic looking pellet guns in their waistbands.
Holst said it took only a few moments to discern the weapons were not real.
"When we pulled them out they looked like a Glock," he said. "I said, ‘Guys, this is the kind of thing gets you hurt. There is no sense carrying this. I you had pulled this out you would have forced us to act. It looks like a real weapon and we can't wait for a shot to be fired to make that determination. We have to act immediately for officer safety.'"
The boys were charged with a juvenile petition for being in possession of a firearm.
"It is an officer's worst nightmare to fire their weapon but we can't wait until there are shots fired," Holst reiterated. "This is not a cowboy movie where we shoot the gun out of your hands or shoot you in the leg. If we are placed in a deadly force situation, we have to shoot to eliminate the risk. Maybe not shoot to kill, but to eliminate the risk or threat and if they pulled [out their pellet guns] it is a threat, and we would be forced to open fire."
He concluded, "We would be looking at tragedy right now."
The boys were released into the custody of the mother who said she was unaware they had the weapons.