8 harmless objects that the police have mistaken for guns

A quick Google search turned up tens of accounts of everyday objects—from hairbrushes to holy books—that were mistaken for guns.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

FROM VOCATIV — After an off-duty police officer fired 17 rounds at 18-year-old Vonderrick Myers in St. Louis Wednesday night, killing the teenager, there were conflicting reports as to whether or not Myers was armed.

Protests erupted near the site of Myers’ death — recalling the August demonstrations in nearby Ferguson that followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen — but according to St. Louis police, Myers fired at least three shots in the direction of the officer, and a gun was recovered at the scene.

His family has disputed the charges, claiming that Myers was unarmed, while a cousin told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the teenager was just holding a sandwich that the officer mistook for a gun.

A sandwich? Really?

As it turns out, mistaking a sandwich for a gun only sounds implausible. A quick Google search turned up tens of accounts of everyday objects — from hairbrushes to holy books — that were mistaken for guns, often with tragic results. Below, some of the most dumbfounding.


A New Jersey man was fatally shot in 2002 when he charged at two officers after they entered his home. The police claimed he had held a “dark object” over his head, which they took to be gun, only to discover it was actually a hardcover Bible.


A 17-year-old was shot in the doorway of his Georgia home this February after an officer thought his Wii controller was a gun.


After a man was reported to be carrying a gun around the campus of California State University San Marcos, police responded and placed the school on lockdown. The threat turned out to be a faculty member toting a black umbrella.


From Las Vegas to Cincinnati, police officers have shot several men in recent years after they reached into their pockets for their cellphones. (We definitely advise against buying the iPhone case that resembles a pistol.)


New York City police officers fired dozens of rounds at a mentally ill teen who was brandishing what they thought was a gun in November 2007. By the time investigators realized it was only a hairbrush, the 18-year-old was already dead.


During a 60-car police chase in March 2013, cops fired 137 bullets at an unarmed Cleveland woman and the car’s male driver after she reached down for a slice of pizza, believing she was grabbing a gun. Both the woman and the driver were killed.


A Florida mall and several nearby schools were placed on lockdown last November after a man was reportedly seen wielding a handgun in the area. On closer inspection, the threat turned out to be a waiter carrying a crumpled up apron.


In an infamous case of police overkill, New York City cops fatally shot 23-year-old Amadou Diallo in 1999 after he reached into his jacket and pulled out his wallet. Assuming it was a gun, officers showered Diallo with 41 bullets outside his Bronx apartment complex.