A 17-year-old boy caused real panic Wednesday afternoon when he was found walking through the woods at Don Fox Park with a rifle.
It all began when golfers near the park saw the young man with a realistic-looking weapon moving through the woods.
Calls to 911 indicated the young man was wearing a backpack and carrying a rifle. When the golfers got near him, he ran into the woods.
Two nearby schools were put on lockdown.
As Lebanon Police responded, officers with actual AR-15s established a perimeter and began probing the woods looking for the gunman.
Things were certainly tense until they learned the teen had a toy gun.
“It’s one of those critical moments,” said Sgt. PJ Hardy. “We are out there with our real weapons. We are going to respond with our long weapons, too, because we want to be able to encounter any adversity coming our way.”
When police encounter the 17-year-old boy emerging from the woods, officials say, he had hidden the gun and his backpack in the tree line.
“He knew what he was doing,” Hardy told News 2. “This was not just, ‘I’m out playing with my toy gun.’ Had it not been that, he wouldn’t have ditched the weapon in the woods. He knew that this was an issue.”
When the gun was later located, only then did police realize it was an air-soft pellet rifle. Though a toy, it looks a lot like the real AR-15 semiautomatic rifles that the Lebanon Police Dept. carry.
“This is a scary situation — could have ended badly,” Hardy said. “Had he not left it in the woods. Had he had it and raised it — standing as close as you and me — I could see that and say, ‘Yeah, probably not real,’ but we don’t get that situation. We are at a distance. Hopefully, with cover, and we are looking and if we cannot tell, we are not taking any chances, If he raised that weapon, it could have ended badly.”
The juvenile was charged with disorderly conduct. He told police he was carrying the weapon as protection against animals.