Police warn fake guns can be mistaken for real guns

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee police say their officers must sometimes make a split-second decision when it comes to deciding whether to shoot an armed suspect. Therefore, there isn't a lot of time to determine whether a bad guy is holding a real gun or a fake.

Police say it is not uncommon for criminals to use fake guns because they're easier to access than live firearms. 

At the Milwaukee Police Academy on Wednesday, January 16th, Range Master Joseph Seitz prepared a test. Seven firearms were place on a table, each similar to what an officer may encounter in the field, but only one was real.

Sgt. Seitz identified one of the fake weapons, which fired pellets -- not bullets.

"If someone's pointing that at you, ultimately you might perceive that to be a weapon," Sgt. Seitz said.

Sgt. Seitz said on the streets, it can be hard for officers to distinguish whether a weapon is real or fake. 

"Officers are often placed in very challenging and dynamic circumstances in which they are making life or death decisions literally within a fraction of a second," Sgt. Seitz said.

This is something 17-year-old Breon Eskridge may have learned the hard way on January 6th. That's when he allegedly tried to rob an off-duty police detective using a black BB gun.

A criminal complaint says Eskridge ordered the detective to go around the corner of a building and get on the ground. The detective drew his off-duty weapon and fired four shots.

Eskridge was hit once, and now faces a felony charge for attempted armed robbery.

"If you are going to commit a crime and you are going to imply that you have a live firearm when you have a BB gun, just understand that an officer is trained to perceive you as a threat," Sgt. Seitz said.

It's not difficult to purchase a pellet gun or a BB gun, but when it comes to criminal charges -- it doesn't matter if the weapon is real or fake. A robbery attempt would result in an armed robbery charge, regardless.