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Long Beach Police Fatally Shoot Man Carrying An Airsoft Rifle

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A man was shot and killed by Long Beach police on Saturday after they mistook an Airsoft rifle for an assault weapon.

According to City News Service, Long Beach police responded to reports of a suspect holding an Uzi near 21st Street and Locust Avenue around 5 p.m. The L.A. Times reports that when police arrived, a man who matched the description of the suspect was speaking to three people in a car, holding what appeared to be a submachine gun. Police opened fire, and shot the man holding the alleged weapon. He died at the scene, and an Airsoft replica rifle was found near the man's body.

City News Service notes that though Airsoft rifles are not real weapons, they are still considered "dangerous" by legal experts because of their "strong visual representation to that of an authentic weapon." This appears to be the case in this shooting, as Sgt. Megan Zabel of the Long Beach PD told CBS L.A. that the air soft gun was lacking the orange tip that would have indicated it wasn't a real weapon. A variety of Airsoft guns can be purchased at Dick's Sporting Goods for less than $100.00.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that the three men in the car were detained, and a handgun was found on one of the men.

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The shooting is still under investigation, and it has not yet been reported how many shots were fired, or what prompted the officer to shoot. According to KTLA, Zabel did not believe there was an exchange of gunfire.

One witness told the Press-Telegram that she saw seven officers shooting at a red SUV that was parked in a driver and that "I saw the smoke go off after the second volley."