Zero Tolerance

Cops Arrested and Handcuffed a 10-Year-Old Boy for Pointing a Toy Gun at a Car

"I was, at the time, very scared."


A 10-year-old boy—Gavin Carpenter of Colorado Springs, Colorado—was playing with a toy gun and pointing it at passing cars.

This angered one driver, who stopped his vehicle, berated Carpenter, and followed the alarmed boy back to his grandparents' house. The driver eventually called the cops as well.

When officers from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office showed up, they arrested Carpenter for menacing the driver. This included handcuffing the kid, booking him, and taking his mugshot. He was charged with a felony, and had to complete community service in order to have his record expunged. His family spent thousands of dollars defending him.

That's according to The Washington Post, which detailed the fraught efforts of Carpenter's parents to convince the authorities to relent:

"I knew I did something wrong," Gavin told KXRM, "but I don't think I should have got arrested and taken in a car with handcuffs on and taken to a place to get mug shots and my fingerprints."

His mother said she shared the story on Facebook to warn other parents who might allow their kids to play with toy guns without realizing the possible consequences.

"I couldn't believe they were following through with this," she told KRDO. "I was waiting for the call from the cops saying that they were going to let this go, warn them, tell them it was wrong."

On Facebook, the mother said her family is eager to move away from Colorado Springs when her husband, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army, is stationed at another post in about three months.

This is the criminalization of teenage boyhood in action, and it's as harmful as it is stupid. In what universe is it reasonable to arrest a child for felony public menacing stemming from an incident in which no one was harmed? Carpenter should have been sent to bed without supper, or grounded for a week. We want children to learn from their mistakes, but the punishment should always be proportionate to the wrongdoing.

The only lesson Carpenter is likely to learn from this ordeal is that the criminal justice system is capricious and unfair. That's a worthwhile lesson but not one he should have to experience firsthand.

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  1. I’m not seeing a picture of this toy gun—orange tip included—at any of the stories detailing the injustice poor little Gavin suffered. Why is that?

    Is it because the toy rifle, other than the orange tip, is indistinguishable from a real firearm? Aside, if his parents reacted with shame, and a promise to spank the dipshit kid, instead of likely reacting similarly to, “How dare you swear at my precious child playing!”, the cops likely aren’t called.

    At least it didn’t turn out like Tamir Rice’s incident did.

    1. …instead of likely reacting similarly to, “How dare you swear at my precious child playing!”, the cops likely aren’t called.

      10-year-old, toy gun and felony are probably words that shouldn’t appear together. Police involvement probably shouldn’t be contingent on the level of grandparental contrition. And as far as I can find, no one is disputing that the what we’ll generously call replica weapons had the identifiable orange safety markers intact.

      1. How extra-ordinary that the Guardian, a UK newspaper, has better reporting than anything stateside.

      2. by pointing an orange-tipped Nerf gun and a crossbow (similar to the once pictured above) at passing cars

        Not dispositive.

    2. This is modern day. If they had promised to spank the dipshit *they* would have been arrested.

    3. As a kid, I remember when the orange tip came into being. I’m not against it, but it didn’t make any real sense to me then and doesn’t make any real sense to me now.

      1. I paint all my guns orange. That moment of hesitation that buys you can be life-saving.

        1. I paint all my guns orange. That moment of hesitation that buys you can be life-saving.

          We played VC Ambush growing up. Only FNGs and dead meat carried toy gun that weren’t painted in forest camo.

    4. Clearly the complainant was in fear for his/her life, what with stopping the car, yelling, and stalking the kid back home. Calling the cops was a d!&* move and so is defending the complainant or the cops.

      1. Thank you for the clearest response. I agree with you and feel the driver should have been arrested for a false report (I feared for my life) and for the colossal waste of the policemen’s time. And the cop should have been spanked for taking part in that farce.


    5. Or maybe it’s not relevant because rather obviously the driver wasn’t really scared or he would never have stopped, berated the kid or followed the kid to the grandparents’ house.
      And you can’t argue that the police were scared because he didn’t still have the toy gun when they finally showed up.

    6. Come now, when i was growing up, toy guns looked like real weapons (no orange tips). I had some cap gun pistols that looked like revolvers and, well, went ‘bang’ because of the caps. We ran around the neighborhood and nearby woods in the dark and played military-esque maneuver and ambush games. And no one so much as batted an eyebrow or even thought about calling the cops.

      This is a complete overreaction, and both the person who reported it and the cops should be ashamed of themselves.

      1. Again, thank your idiot anti-gun DEMOCRATS! They’ve created this untenable situation.

  2. “I knew I did something wrong,” Gavin told KXRM, “but I don’t think I should have got arrested and taken in a car with handcuffs on and taken to a place to get mug shots and my fingerprints.”

    Hey kid, everyone in jail doesn’t think they should have gotten arrested. You’re in good company.

    1. “Hey kid, everyone in jail doesn’t think they should have gotten arrested. ”

      These days, 80% of them are probably right.

  3. The only lesson Carpenter is likely to learn from this ordeal is that the criminal justice system is capricious and unfair. That’s a worthwhile lesson but not one he should have to experience firsthand.

    Somebody has to experience it firsthand so that others don’t. It might as well be this little retard.

    1. Hope u don’t have kids. You’re seriously warped with your views.

  4. Sounds like the driver was doing some menacing as well.

  5. Gavin said he and his friend were pretending to be in their favorite video game, the wildly popular “Fortnite,”

    Excellent. Now their parents can sue Epic Games!

  6. Old family story goes that my great uncle had a kid who did the exact same to him as he was pulling away from the curb at his apartment complex. Of course, at the time, toy guns didn’t have the requisite orange tips. My great uncle stopped the car and spanked the kid with his belt right there in the yard. I know the story because both my Dad and my Uncle, who were in the car at the time, witnessed the whole affair. Supposedly, the kid was the landlord’s son and the landlord made the kid come over and apologize later. Multiple generations would almost certainly prefer the booking.

    Can’t say I wouldn’t be a little bit enraged if someone pointed a gun or reasonable facsimile at a car my children or nieces/nephews were riding in.

  7. According to his parents, Gavin is now ‘terrified’ of law enforcement and suffers from ‘flashbacks’ of his arrest.

    Stephanie Carpenter explained in her post that she has decided to talk publicly about her family’s plight to educate other parents that this ‘could happen to anyone with children.’

    She went on to say that the family had plans to settle in Colorado for good after her husband’s eventual retirement from the military, but all that has now changed.

    ‘I can’t live in a state where my kids can’t be kids and play outside without being scared of being arrested,’ she wrote. ‘I fully believe schools need to be educating children that this is a possibility. Had Gavin known….none of this would have happened.’

    So the kid learned not to point guns at people, he the whole family developed a healthy fear/distrust of law enforcement, *and* didn’t get spanked… I don’t use the word ‘hero’ very often…

    1. This story is a real litmus test for finding the boot licking misanthropes around here.

      1. I’m being sarcastic. The guy certainly is no hero.

        But the libertarian angle is a bit vague and the story seems exceedingly local. It’s not like the cops just arrested him out of nowhere or there’s been an epidemic of 10-yr.-old fake gun arrests. Moreover, given Reason’s rampant history of omitting facts to the point of outright lying in these and similar situations, I’m less than convinced that anything resembling a really bad outcome happened here. There’s certainly a case to be made that the cops should be deescalating without an arrest, but the rest is corner-case bullshit with no clear libertarian win.

        The photograph of the team of burly masked, officers perpwalking the bruised and battered kid into his prison cell by his shackles is very telling.

  8. Full name of driver?
    Full name of arresting officer?

    1. Full name of prosecuting DA?

  9. It is indeed a different world out there today.
    In suburbia in the 70’s, it was normal for a kid or group of kids to have a BB gun (think Red Rider type model) and walk to a friend’s house with ‘open carry’ of said gun. Then sit in the back yard plinking at whatever seemed worthy of shooting, and that wouldn’t get us in trouble; we were not always perfect at assessing what would/would not get us in trouble.

    As far as I remember, we were always respectful with our guns, keeping the barrel pointed down or only at an intended target.
    And no parent ever called the cops. Now a preschooler holding his hand in a finger gun pose will get the full weight of the law on his back.

    1. Back in the day, my friends and I used to point our BB guns at each other and play war and shit like that. Nobody was ever dumb enough to point them at passing cars because that would have been stupid.

      1. Yep. And used wrist rockets to launch small rocks in similar battles. But we wore ski goggles for protection.

      2. We pointed the BB guns at each other AND pulled the trigger. We also had bottle rocket wars and shot fireworks at each other. No one was arrested.

  10. Kids lucky he wasn’t black.

    1. And driver is lucky kid didn’t claim “he tried to touch my pee pee.”

    2. if the kid was black, and the driver “other”, the driver is the one that woiuld get the Nickel Ride.

  11. At least now he knows to stay as far as possible from police.They are not his friends.

  12. So sick. Sick sick sick. Cops and prosecutors are sick in the head. The pants wetting passerby is sick too. They are exemplars of the state. They can all burn in hell. Any employee who is not actively agitating for change within the police department, the prosecutor’s office and the courthouse are part of the problem (hat tip to Dave Smith). EABOD.

  13. Even in the 60’s when I was a kid i was told to never point my toy guns at anyone since it may be confused for a real gun. Parenting is part of teh problem here and so is the over reaction by the cops. common sense has left the building

    1. This is the REAL situation in the 60’s Only point at what you mean to shoot. Even toy guns. Toy guns were training for your 1st BB gun and that was training for your 1st .22, and then you graduated to a shot gun. 20 ga. from the cabinet, then maybe a 12 ga. when you were of a physical size to handle it.

      Parenting. That seems to be the lacking element in this story.

    2. you fail to realise that in the sixties toy guns looked as close to the real thing as possible. Part of the “image thing. I wanted one to look like the one Roy Rodgers had on HIS belt. Looking back mine would be pretty hard to distinguish from a Smith Model Ten. (I have one…a real one, now) That all change back in, I think it was Johnson’s regime. HUGE orange parts now. Any ninny can tell in a nanosecond that its TOY, nothing to fear, go home and battle the monsters in your own shed. Good grief!! That pantswetting driver is more a threat to the good order of society than the kid is.

  14. So many more way important things LE/DA’s can do rather than going after kids with toy guns. This is why they don’t get respect anymore. Go after illegals, gang bangers, predators and crooks instead you idiots. Sometimes cops are just useless.

  15. I grew up in the Springs. Very pretty town, full of very conservative, religious, and judgemental people. If you’re poor, it’s because you’re a sinner. Hell, they still won’t allow any marijuana dispensaries to open there. And, yes, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is full of assholes, and the DAs are bloodthirsty to the point of ridiculousness.

  16. So at least this makes it clear we need to repeal the ‘orange tip’ toy gun law, because it doesn’t work.
    It is also clear now that a stranger getting out of a car and stalking a kid back to his home and abusing the kid at least verbally is not child abuse.
    It is also clear that this country has gone to the dogs, and deserves a Bernie or a Joe.

    1. I’m fine with someone following a kid home and raising hell if the kid has actually done something seriously wrong.

  17. Remember the bit the Mom posted on Facebook, and someone responded to the effect that this was a good turnout, now the kid and his pals will learn that playing with guns in public is bad. Shameful. A big No No. SO now they will be forced to hide that, be ashamed of it.. and this is all part of the marxist totalitarian programming for the kids to grow them up all manageable and such, thinking guns are, in and of themselves, immoral, evil, shameful, nasty.

    Then they wonder why the kids end up going into secret places and playing with each other, something that WE were taught is bad.

  18. Scary ass driver arrest his stupid ass for stopping who gets scared of a yellow gun won’t like the bitch was all black what a stupid ass n****

  19. In what reality is a 10-year-old a “teenager”?

  20. The blind cop boot-lickers commenting on this story make me so sick I could puke. Maybe one day YOU will be abused by the police. You’ll be the first one crying like a little b.

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