Multiple toy guns have been pulled from a Florida convenience store after a concerned customer complained they looked too realistic and could create potentially dangerous situations for children playing with them.
Eliseo Way, the father of three who complained, said he specifically thought of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer on Nov. 22, 2014.
Officers believed that Rice was carrying a weapon, but it turned out to be a toy gun.
“[The toy guns] just looked too real when I walked into the store and I seen that he had a whole shelf of them,” Way, 37, of Winterhaven, Florida, told ABC News on Wednesday.
“I saw each kid getting killed for each gun. That’s how I looked at it,” Way added.
He was first alerted to the toy guns at his local Citgo after he saw a young boy in his neighborhood playing with one outside.
“I see this kid playing with a gun very similar with how Tamir Rice was [and] I said to myself if a policeman or irate citizen were to pull up and see him playing with his gun like I would literally see a kid get killed,” Way said.
Way asked the child, who looked to be about 10 years old, where he got the gun and was told the Citgo across the street.
Way said he first went into the store last Wednesday to speak with the store owner but wasn’t able to do so until Saturday. It was then that he explained to the store owner the dangers of selling such realistic-looking toy guns, he said.
“I had to break it down to him that those guns, in the hands of children, have had those children killed,” Way said.
The Citgo store owner, Muhammad Mia, told ABC Tampa Bay affiliate WFTS that after speaking with Way he not only took the toy guns off the shelf, but will no longer sell ones that don’t clearly mark they are fake.
“I don’t want anything to happen to anybody,” Mia told the station.
Way said he later learned of a federal law that requires any toy guns to have an orange plug inserted into the barrel. However there are exceptions to the law, including traditional BB, paintball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.
Situations across the country involving fake guns have occurred multiple times in recent years.
In October 2018, a similar incident to the Rice case nearly happened when a Columbus police officer responded to a call about two young black men who had flashed a gun.
Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Peter Casuccio said one of the boys, who were 11 and 13 years old, began to pull the gun out of his waistband before dropping it on the ground. The gun turned out to be a realistic-looking BB gun.
“I could’ve killed you,” Cascuccio can be heard saying to the boys in police body camera footage.
In July of this year, 17-year-old Hannah Williams was shot to death by a police officer in Anaheim, California. Police officials initially said investigators recovered a “possible handgun” at the scene of the shooting, but the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said a BB gun designed to look like a handgun was recovered at the scene next to Williams.
In the Rice case, Officer Timothy Loehmann, who fatally shot the 12-year-old, was fired from his position in 2017 over administrative policy violations but not the shooting. The local police union has appealed the decision to fire Loehmann.
Way said he hoped the store’s decision to remove the toy guns helped to prevent any untimely deaths.
“I’m hoping to eliminate all these hypothetical scenarios that aren’t so hypothetical these days,” he said.