Lifelike pellet guns pose dilemma for police

The rifle on top is an M-16. The other is an M4-177 BB/pellet rifle.
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Police are warning parents after seeing more and more kids with pellet rifles that look like full assault weapons.

The new pellet guns resemble the real thing so much that police are having a hard time telling the real from the fake when seconds count. The confusion could get someone killed.

"I think it's pretty dangerous," said Lynn Workman, Indianapolis resident.

That was the reaction after we showed parents a brand new air pellet rifle that looks like an M-16.

Eyewitness News purchased the pellet gun at a local sporting goods store. Parents we spoke with mistook it for a real rifle.

"On TV you see a lot of those and it looks exactly like what you see on TV," said Workman.

"Would you know if this is real if someone was carrying it?" we asked another parent.

"No, I wouldn't. It looks real," said Sandra Barron.

We placed the air pellet gun next to an M-16 carried by Metro Police officers. Northwest District Commander Brian Mahone pointed out the similarities. The two weapons are hard to distinguish even to a trained eye.

"Carried in someone's hand or concealed in a bag or under a coat, it looks like a real rifle," said Mahone.

Commander Mahone's biggest concern comes after seeing a teenager outside Northwest High School chasing a classmate with a pellet rifle, prompting a 911 call. He and other responding officers thought the gun was real and ordered the teen to put the gun down.

"The teen was very compliant and he understood it looked real and did what we told him, which probably saved his life," said Mahone.

Eyewitness News was granted exclusive access to the property room to show you these lifelike weapons on the list for disposal. They include pellet rifles, handguns and even toys taken off the streets by police officers.

Even parents say they clearly see why even a trained police officer may not know one of these lifelike weapons in the hands of a kid is not a real gun.

"Someone might shoot at them thinking that it's a real weapon, in my opinion," said Norman Reed.