Real guns vs. replicas: telling the difference difficult - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Real guns vs. replicas: telling the difference is increasingly difficult

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SAN DIEGO (CNS/News 8 ) - Authorities released the name Thursday of a police sergeant who opened fire on a probationer who allegedly pulled a realistic-looking replica pistol during a foot chase at a Mira Mesa strip mall.

Sgt. Robert Wills, a 21-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, shot 22-year-old Robert McBride Jr. in a parking lot outside a CVS Pharmacy at Camino Ruiz and Mira Mesa Boulevard early Wednesday morning, SDPD Lt. Kevin Rooney said.

McBride suffered a non-life-threatening bullet wound to the chest and remains hospitalized, according to Rooney.

The sergeant was driving through the shopping center shortly before 12:30 a.m. when he saw McBride and another young man walking near a row of parked cars. Believing the pair might have been looking for a vehicle to burglarize, Wills followed them as they walked toward the drugstore, according to Rooney.

After his companion entered the business, McBride kept walking, and Wills called out to him, the lieutenant said.

The young man stopped, and during an ensuing conversation, Wills asked to see some identification. McBride pulled out his wallet before suddenly running off through the parking lot, Rooney said.

The sergeant gave chase, ordering the fleeing man to halt. Moments later, McBride stopped, turned around and started to run back toward Wills. The suspect then allegedly pulled what appeared to be a dark-colored semiautomatic handgun from his waistband and raised it, prompting the sergeant to fire a shot at him.

Medics took McBride to a trauma center, where he underwent surgery. Upon his recovery, he is expected to be booked on suspicion of exhibiting an imitation firearm in a threatening manner and a probation violation, Rooney said.

Wills was not injured during the confrontation.

The fake gun that the suspect allegedly drew on Wills was indistinguishable from a real one at a distance, especially in the dark of night, according to Rooney.

In fact, recent advances made in the design and manufacturing of replica firearms have made it increasingly difficult for law enforcement to tell the difference between real and replica firearms, which are not required to have an orange ring around their tip, like toy guns.

Replicas are almost as easy to purchase as toy guns, readily available on-line thru sites like e-Bay.

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