Teen finds himself facing drawn weapons over homemade toy

Posted at 3:57 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 18:43:27-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A misunderstanding led to a scary situation at Joe Taylor Park in Grand Rapids Monday, when police saw a teen playing with a toy gun that they say looked like the real thing.

The teen, Hunter, is autistic, according to his family, and has been making toy weapons his whole life.  He's very good at it, but that almost got him in serious trouble Monday when he found himself facing the drawn guns of Grand Rapids police officers.

“We were sitting right up under the gazebo," said Sheron Porter, who lives across the street from the park. "Immediately when we saw what was happening we all rushed over here to the fence and we was yelling ‘it’s a play gun, he got autism, it’s a play gun!’”

Hunter's family just moved to the Baxter neighborhood near the park in December.  Neighbors say they see Hunter frequently, usually with either a toy gun or a toy sword.  Hunter makes the guns out of cardboard, tape and Legos.

Police were called Monday that someone was in the park carrying a gun.  They responded not knowing if there was someone in the park with a real gun, or if it was Hunter and one of his replicas.  They found him, followed their training and drew their weapons.  Hunter safely got down on the ground. Police then made sure Hunter got home safely and explained why they did what they did.

“They didn’t even know that before they came up to me and whoever else was there," said Hunter. “I mean, it’s not a bad thing. They’re just trying to do their jobs."

That's a sentiment shared by neighbors, who are shaken up but, like Hunter and his family, understand both sides.

"I understand that," said Porter, "I just didn’t want you to hurt this child over a play gun."

In the meantime, Hunter is making a few modifications to his replicas.

“Might want to put like yellow or orange tape on all of the stuff I make so everybody knows it’s fake," he said.

No charges were filed in the incident.