DES MOINES, Iowa — On September 3, 2018 Des Moines police fielded calls that could put anyone on high alert. “We had several people give us a call that they saw a young man walking the street and he was armed with a hand gun,” said Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek.
Police officer Andrew Weispfenning quickly responded at 40th and Douglass in the Beaverdale neighborhood. On his body camera video you can hear Officer Weispfenning yell, “Drop it, drop it,” as he approaches the young black male holding the gun at his side. Parizek said, “From our perspective you cannot tell if that’s a real gun or a fake gun and that can lead to some very deadly consequences.”
From the dash-cam video the juvenile appears to point the gun directly at officer Weispfenning. “It was one thing to see the gun in his hand but it was another thing to see him actually extend that out at the officer,” said Parizek.
In the video, Weispfenning never fires his weapon. He leaves his vehicle and the juvenile places the gun on the ground. It isn’t until moments later that the officer learns the gun was a replica and radios into dispatch the gun is a toy. “When you look at the gun later it looked about as real as the one on my hip,” said Parizek.
The choice to not fire is arguably one that others may not have made. “That could have been deadly in an instant,” Parizek said.
Four years ago, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio wasn’t so fortunate. Residents called on a juvenile with a handgun in the park, the officer shot and killed Rice. In the twelve-year old’s hand was an air soft gun. The controversial shooting is a hot button issue and was moments away from happening here in Des Moines. Officer Weispfenning even had a teaching moment with the young juvenile, saying “what were you thinking, you pointed the gun at me? You could have been shot.” A thankful lesson the police department hopes others can pay attention to, “You can hear him have a scolding tone with that kid. Look this is how you get shot. I don’t think it was really soaking in,” said Parizek.
No charges were filed against the juvenile. Officer Weispfenning left the department the following month to pursue other opportunities.