A man who police say pointed an airsoft pistol at an officer Wednesday night was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. But police say the outcome could have been much worse.

Just after 11 p.m., an officer stopped at a light at the intersection of 300 South and 300 East, looked out his window and saw a man pointing a gun at him, said Salt Lake police spokeswoman Lara Jones. The officer, believing that the man was about to open fire on him, drove his patrol car near the suspect, positioning the vehicle between himself and the gunman for protection, Jones said.

The officer drew his own weapon and ordered the suspect, who had now put his pistol in his waistband, to get on the ground, she said.

The man threw his pistol to the ground and was arrested. It was only after the man was in custody that investigators discovered the pistol was actually an airsoft gun. But at that time of night, Jones said the gun looked real to the officer.

"Officers have to make snap judgments. These guns look very, very real. You protect yourself first and whoever may be around you," she said.

When someone points a gun at an officer and that officer believes their life is in danger, Jones said the officer could have easily opened fire on the man.

"You run the risk of getting shot," she said.

Wren Kennedy, 23, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated assault on a police officer.

Airsoft guns have become issues of debate for some cities recently that have considered banning the toy weapons because of how real they look. In Weber County and some of its cities, certain toy guns have already been prohibited. Some have argued that police responding to a call shouldn't have to worry if the gun a person is holding is fake or real.

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