The shooting of a Santa Rosa teenager holding a replica rifle has police officers reliving the moment when they first stared down the barrel of a gun.
It happened to one retired cop in the South Bay, who says there was no time to decide whether the gun pointed at him was real.
The former deputy named Mark Garcia says deciding the authenticity of any rifle is not a debate officers can have when a gun is pointed directly at them.
Garcia sits behind the desk now running a private investigations business, but he vividly remembers a day in 1996 when a man pulled out an AK47 with the intent to kill.
“Going back thinking about it, do I have cause. Will I be sued? When you're in this business, you're trained to do the right thing. You don’t want to hurt anybody, but your life is on the line,” Garcia said.
Garcia says thinking about too many things when a gun is pointed at you --including whether the firearm its real, can be fatal.
Back in 1966, Garcia unloaded three magazines in a gun fight that was very real. Police later arrested his attacker.
Peter Ho owns Air Soft Extreme in Santa Clara.
The guns he sells shoot small plastic BBs and not bullets. Ho says every replica gun has an orange tip on the end.
He says he teaches his customers that safety comes first and to assume anyone who sees the gun will think it is the real thing.
“That’s the first thing we teach parents. You don’t rely on that orange tip, or the fact that it’s a toy. You have to worry about what the other guy is thinking when they see it,” Ho said.