Two Cincinnati-area men experienced dramatically different outcomes when they allegedly reached for fake guns this week during encounters with police.
Cincinnati police officers shot and killed 37-year-old Paul Gaston after he crashed his pickup about 5 p.m. Wednesday into a utility pole in the city’s Cheviot neighborhood, where 911 callers had reported an apparently intoxicated man waving a gun.
“He exited the car, stumbled out, dropped the gun, picked up the gun and took off,” a 911 caller reported.
Witnesses said Gaston appeared to be disoriented when he got out of the crashed truck, and police ordered him to lie down on the pavement when they arrived shortly after the crash.
Video recorded by bystanders shows Gaston on his knees with his hands in the air as officers surround him with their guns drawn.
He lay down for a moment but rose up to his knees, and officers fired nine shots when they said he reached for a weapon that turned out to be an airsoft pellet gun.
Gaston was killed when he was struck by police gunfire.
About 18 hours earlier and less than 10 miles away, Mt. Healthy police encountered another man who pointed an airsoft pellet gun at them during a confrontation.
Officers were called about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to a home to investigate an assault, and they said 26-year-old Christopher Laugle picked up a realistic-looking weapon from a coffee table inside the home and pointed it at the officers.
Police said the officers showed great restraint and did not shoot Laugle, who authorities said was taken into custody after a brief struggle.
The officers did not realize the gun was fake until after Laugle was arrested, according to the police report.
Laugle was charged with menacing and was jailed on $2,000 bond.
Gaston, the slain suspect, was black, and Laugle, who was arrested, is white.
The incidents involved two different police departments, but took place in Ohio — an open-carry state where a black man and black boy holding airsoft pellet guns were also killed during recent encounters with police.
No officers were charged in the 2014 shooting deaths of John Crawford III near Dayton or Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
Airsoft guns fire plastic balls that are larger and lighter than metal ball bearings fired by BB guns.