CLINTON — A mentally challenged teen waving a toy gun may be lucky to be alive after a run-in with police.
The 17-year-old boy’s mother says Davis County sheriff's deputies overreacted.
Deputy Chris Benedict and his partner were on patrol Saturday night near 1820 North and 630 West in Clinton when they saw a shadowy figure with a gun.
"I saw someone crouched by the van," Benedict said. "At that time, the deputy I was training stated that she saw a gun."
They pulled around for a closer look, from about a couple dozen yards away.
"As I flipped around, I did see a gentleman crouched down by the van in a tactical position, and he was pointing a gun," Benedict said. The officers had to be careful and their training kicked in.
"I called out the location, asked for additional units," Benedict said.
Then the teen turned and pointed the gun toward the officers. As officers pulled their weapons, calling for the boy to drop his, Benedict said the teen just turned around, keeping the gun at his side.
It was a standoff for a few seconds. "As he was walking away, we were closing the distance, giving verbal commands to drop the weapon," Benedict said.
But it wasn't until the officers got much closer that they could see the 17-year-old was holding a plastic toy gun with an orange tip and that he had Down syndrome.
"I think they overreacted, I really do," said Diane Taylor, the boy's mother. She said she couldn't help but wonder if officers reacted too quickly.
"I know there's not a lot of time, in some circumstances, but that's why there's a lot of innocent people that get killed," she said.
It was midnight and her son had managed slip out of his home. "My son was scared to death, telling me he didn't hardly say a word,” she said.
Still, toy or not, deputies said in the dark it all seems very real and dangerous. "(What was) going through my mind is that this was a threat to mine and my partner’s lives," Benedict recalled.
Police say parents need to be aware that those real-looking guns, even the ones with orange tips, can be dangerous, especially since some criminals have painted orange tips on their real weapons.
The teen’s mother said the boy loves the police and was playing “policeman.” While the encounter scared him, she said he still wants to be a police officer.