Video: Tense confrontation between teen with replica toy gun and armed officer

It's a scenario that ended tragically before: a cop in Falcon Heights, gun drawn, approaching a suspect with a weapon after dark.

But just a few hundred yards from where Philando Castile was fatally shot in 2016, the situation ended very differently last Friday. A Ramsey County Sheriff's deputy arrested a 14-year-old boy, who was spotted aiming a rifle out an apartment window just moments before, in a parking lot at Snelling and Larpenteur avenues.

"It was a replica of a Remington 700 sniper rifle, and it was extremely realistic in look and in feel and in action and in detail, and it was ultimately determined to be an Airsoft weapon, which is a weapon through compressed air fires a plastic pellet," said Steve Frazer, chief deputy for the Ramsey County Sheriff's office. "With the detailed nature of the actual rifle itself, there would be no way to discern that from a real operational weapon."

Video taken from the patrol car shows the deputy, Sam Loe, stepping out of her car with her own rifle in hand, searching for what a witness reported as a pair of suspects in a window, waving around a rifle and shouting "Heil Hitler" at passersby in a parking lot below. The video shows Loe watching until a figure emerges from a door with a rifle in hand and she starts to approach him, radioing other officers that she's pursuing someone with a long gun.

MPR News is Member Supported

What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.

"Drop it! Drop it!" she shouts as she jogs across the parking lot toward him. People in the apartment building can be heard shouting back at her. They tell her it isn't a real weapon and she asks if it is a toy. But she also radios back to dispatchers that he's got a rifle in his arms.

A toy replica and a real Remington 700 rifle
A toy replica (top) and a real Remington 700 sniper rifle comparison. The toy was taken from a 14-year-old suspect after a confrontation with a Ramsey County Sheriff's deputy on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.
Provided by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

Seconds later, other squad cars arrived and the boy was handcuffed and taken into custody. He's facing felony terroristic threat charges, Frazer said. The Sheriff's Office says they can only identify him by age and gender, but can't name him nor describe his race — called a key factor in the shooting of Castile two blocks away by a St. Anthony police officer.

Ramsey County deputies took over patrol work in Falcon Heights eight weeks ago, when the city decided to drop a service contract with the neighboring city.

Frazer released the video Wednesday, saying it was an example of the kind of policing that Falcon Heights had been seeking in the wake of the Castile shooting.

"We had a family who was victimized who called gave us a good detailed description, we had good community members kind of thrust in the middle of it, who didn't shrink away from the opportunity to offer help, and additional admonishment to the man carrying the gun to put it down. All that coming together led to the community-orienting policing outcome we'd like. Which is a safe outcome with no one hurt," Frazer said.

The gun was the same kind — an air-powered pellet gun — that 12-year-old Tamir Rice was carrying when he was shot and killed by Cleveland police.

But long guns add to the peril and the urgency, Frazer said.

"It's one of the most dangerous situations police face, he said. "There's nothing our deputies involved in this wear that would protect them in a situation like this. Their body armor would be completely ineffective. It really is that high intensity moment for a law enforcement officer."

Correction: Ramsey County Sheriff's Office chief deputy Steve Frazer's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.