A Spokane man is lucky to be alive after he was involved in a standoff on a busy downtown street corner armed and refusing to drop what police officers later determined to be an airsoft pistol.
The incident happened last Thursday near the Olive Garden at 221 N. Wall in downtown Spokane. Nearby office workers called 911 to report a young man and his girlfriend fighting on the planters in front of the restaurant.
"While giving that information to the 911 operator the witness saw the male pull a handgun out of the female's purse," Spokane Police Sergeant Dan Waters said.
The semi-automatic pistol was hard for arriving officers to miss.
"They're told what the guy looks like, they show us , he's holding a gun you're instantly in a deadly force situation," Waters said.
Despite multiple commands from officers confronting the 29-year-old man with the gun, he didn't drop the weapon. Police would have been justified in shooting him for his refusal to drop the pistol at that point but there were too many innocent bystanders in the area.
"It was that consideration of putting the safety of other people in the area ahead of themselves, and then that time frame, that split second or two allowed them to de-escalate the situation," Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said.
Police didn't know it at that moment they faced off with that individual, but the suspect's pistol wasn't real; it was actually a C02 powered airsoft replica built to resemble a Sig Sauer GSR 1911 pistol. Instead of carrying a magazine of .45 bullets it carried a magazine filled with BBs.
"Those officers would have been very much potentially justified in engaging that subject and using deadly force in this incident but again their training and their skill sets and their individual character is what prevented that," Straub said.
Police have the airsoft replica now while the man involved in the incident is lucky to be alive.