A San Ramon neighborhood had a pretty good scare last week after police were called out on reports of a masked man with a rifle. It turned out the rifle was a fake, but the response it sparked was as real as it gets.
A woman spotted a person outside her house with a mask over his face and carrying what appeared to be a rifle. It turned out to be a boy with an air soft gun. The woman, thinking it was a real gun, dialed 911, her voice shaking.
"There’s a gentleman outside my house with a gun," she told the dispatcher. And then in a more panicked tone said the person was approaching her house.
Police rushed in.
"For us, it was real, until we found out it wasn’t," Sgt. Pat Cerruti said. "We saw the individuals. It turned out to be four individuals in the bushes and immediately dropped their air soft rifles."
Four boys, ages 12 to 14, were playing in the bushes with the fake rifles. It's a lesson for the community, police said
"It’s a different world now," Cerruti said. "We’ve seen tragedies happen."
In October 2013, a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who had been carrying a fake rifle. The deputy thought he was carrying a real assault rifle.
The entire East Bay community has been on edge with a string of robberies in the Danville and Fremont areas.
"From a distance, I can see where someone who's not familiar, it could set off all kinds of alarms," neighbor Linda Corey said. "Right here with the rifle?"
Corey has come face to face with boys playing with fake guns, and she feels something should be done about it.
"I think they should be banned," she said. "They look so real, and it’s scary."