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Man with disassembled toy gun shot in head by police, claim finger on trigger

police crime scene tape - not the scene of the crime in the article
police crime scene tape - not the scene of the crime in the article
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

Recently released details into the death of a Yakima, Wash. man last week leave many questioning the police officer who mistook his disassembled airsoft gun for a real firearm. 23-year-old Rocendo Arias was inside his parked car on Sunday, January 4 when Yakima Police Officer Casey Gilette observed the “suspicious” vehicle.

According to statements from Department spokesperson Capt. Rod Light, Gilette was on a 3 a.m. routine patrol. Officer Gilette decided to approach the vehicle after “surveying the situation for one hour”.

Gilette approached the vehicle in an unorthodox manner. Many police would have knocked on Arias’s window to ask him why he was parked outside for that length of time. According to Light, Gilette did not announce himself, or knock on the window. Gilette swung the passenger side door open without informing the driver. After he noticed the disassembled gun, Gilette fired four shots, striking Arias once in the head.

“It appeared that he had some accessories to the handgun that he was trying to install on it or put pieces of this gun together,” Capt. Light explained. The airsoft gun had a bright orange plastic tip, used to identify the item as a toy. “I believe this particular handgun had an orange tip. But based on our investigation I don’t want to go into particulars and details of the position of the gun and where the officer was,” Light said.

Light defended Gilette’s actions, despite the toy being partially disassembled, claiming that Arias had his hand on the section containing the trigger. “The deceased had the weapon not only in his hand, but he also had his finger on the trigger,” Light said.

Gilette declined to be interviewed for 48 hours after the shooting. Gilette’s department opened an investigation, and Police Chief Dominic Rizzi Jr. spoke out in support of the officer’s actions as well. “Based on the preliminary investigation, I absolutely stand behind the officer and his actions in the shooting that occurred,” Rizzi stated.

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