Richmond police are praising the composure of two officers during a tense incident with a 14-year-old boy who reached into his waistband for a firearm on Friday.
The incident unfolded about 8:30 a.m., when Officer Daniel Reina and an officer he had been assigned to train responded to a call about an armed juvenile walking with another juvenile along the Richmond Greenway trail, which is now known as the Lillie Mae Jones Trail, Richmond police Lt. Felix Tan said.
While responding, Officer Reina spotted the teens walking through the parking lot of O’Reilly Auto Parts at 23rd Street and Bissell Avenue, Tan said.
The officers exited their vehicle and ordered the teens to put their hands up. That’s when the 14-year-old made a decision that could have turned into a “catastrophe” for multiple families, Tan said.
“While giving the juveniles orders, the officers moved to locations of protection, in case they had to engage them with their duty weapons. While the officers were in motion, one of the juveniles turned toward the officers, reached for the handgun in his waistband, pulled it out and threw it on the ground,” Tan said. “The juveniles eventually listened to the officers’ instructions and were detained.”
The gun turned out to be a replica 9mm Beretta semi-auto pistol, Tan said.
“The replica gun had a working slide, safety and a magazine inserted,” he added.
The 14-year-old told officers he found the gun.
Tan said the officers’ handling of the incident is a testament to the types of training that have led to a low number of officer-involved shootings in Richmond.
“We attribute our lower amount of OIS to force option training we conduct on a regular basis, along with monthly firearms training,” Tan said. “That isn’t common in most law enforcement agencies. That’s the difference.”
“Force option training includes scenarios officers face on a daily basis. During the training, officers must negotiate their way through different scenarios involving weapons such as guns, Tan said. Instead of real guns, pellet guns are used during training.
“The officers aren’t allowed to wear their ballistic vest and they don’t want to get shot by the pellets and that’s how we add the realism and stress to this training,” Tan said. “The outcome for each scenario is usually dictated by how the officer performs and what decisions are made. Some scenarios, the only outcome is to engage with deadly force. It is three-dimensional training like this that sets us apart from most other departments. It forces our officers to hold their composure under stress, stress management, decision making, shot placement and tactics. In fact, we have had numerous media outlets come to film our training because it is different than most departments.”