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Fake gun teenager could have been shot; Parents urged to think again over presents.

Byline: By Neil McKay

A TEENAGER sparked an armed police alert when he was spotted in the street carrying what looked like a machine pistol, police said yesterday.

A helicopter hovered overhead while armed officers swooped on Dunn Road, Peterlee, County Durham, after an alarmed passer-by reported that a gunman was on the loose on Saturday night.

Last night a police chief said the "gunman" - who was with two pals - could easily have been shot by officers who thought he was armed.

Yesterday police marksmen demonstrated the similarity in appearance between the actual gun and the replica seized from the youth.

He was ordered by police using a loudhailer to lie spread-eagled while officers disarmed him.

Chief Superintendent Trevor Watson said: "Officers were called on Saturday night shortly before 8.30pm after a member of the public alerted them to a male carrying what was described as a Heckler and Koch machine pistol.

"Almost 45 minutes later in Dunn Road the weapon recovered from the teenager was found to be a ballbearing gun that fires plastic ammunition."

Armed officers surrounded the startled youth and ordered him to drop the weapon.

Mr Watson said: "It is impossible to distinguish a replica weapon from the real thing at a distance.

"When we receive a report that someone has been seen carrying a firearm in a public place our only option is to respond as if the weapon is real and deploy armed officers.

"This is based on an assessment of the risk such a person poses.

"People need to be aware that if they carry an imitation firearm in a public place a tragedy could be around the corner.

"Our response will be as if they are carrying the genuine article and they are putting both themselves and others at risk. The incident at the weekend ended safely but the outcome could easily have been far more serious.

"With Christmas just weeks away if any parents are considering buying their children ball-bearing guns or replica weapons of any type I would urge them to think again and choose a gift that can't lead their offspring into such dangerous situations."

The chief superintendent appealed to anyone who already owns a replica firearm of any sort to hand it in to the police.

The 18-year-old youth, who police said was "very shocked" by the alarm he had sparked, was given "suitable advice regarding his conduct in front of his parents", added Chief Supt Watson.

Yesterday people in Peterlee said they had seen the helicopter overhead and heard sirens, but had been unaware of what had caused the drama.

Irene Kirk, 50, of Dunn Road, said: "It seems crazy that kids can so easily get a hold of these replica guns. It sounds like he was lucky not to be shot."

CAPTION(S):

NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE: A replica Heckler and Koch G36C gun (bottom) and the real version.; HARD TO TELL: PC Craig Gaines with a replica Heckler and Koch G36C machine pistol.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2007
Words:498
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