CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It started with nearly a dozen 9-1-1 calls to Harvey police when men with guns were driving around near Thornton Township High School, and it nearly ended with a police-involved shooting Wednesday afternoon.
"All I see is a barrel pointed at me, that's it,” said Harvey Police Officer Willie Giddens.
It was a heart stopping moment for Giddens. One he is grateful that didn't result in him shooting anyone. He had pulled over a vehicle with five young men inside and found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. He and his Deputy Chief had approached the vehicles with their guns ready, but not yet drawn. They were able to disarm the suspects without incident, but it was only afterwards that they realized the guns were toys, made for paint ball games.
“This is what I'm seeing,” Giddens said, holding the gun that had been pointed at him. “They think they're playing, they think it's a game, they think they're having fun, but all I see is a barrel, all I can do is think about my family. And truth be told you're not even thinking about your family, you're just thinking about your life at that point,” he said with adrenaline still pumping nearly four hours after the incident.
The suspects, ages 14-21, were all taken into custody with charges pending.
An attorney who specializes in gun cases says this situation could easily have turned deadly in an instant.
“You could easily once again have a Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio situation created where you have a child with a gun that to a police officer who's received a call about someone with a gun may go and not show the kind of restraint that these officer showed,” said attorney Travis Richardson.
Harvey police say their training saved the suspects from getting shot.
“This is an incident that could have been fatal, and as the deputy chief of Harvey police department I am urging parents not only here in Harvey but around the state to step up and be responsible, know what it is your child has when he or she leaves the residence,” said Harvey Police Deputy Chief Gregory Thomas.
Harvey’s mayor plans to push for changes in Illinois law to require that paint ball guns and other toy weapons be required to have orange tips to identify them as toys, and to require that they be stored in containers while being transported.