Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: A man was booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on a charge of disorderly conduct and a violation of the city of Safford weapons ordinance after firing a pellet gun while walking down 8th Avenue.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – Handguns are prevalent in Arizona – it is an open-carry state – and BB or pellet guns that replicate real handguns have been mistaken for the real thing with tragic consequences involving law enforcement or others.
Thankfully, an incident on the evening of Dec. 30, 2020, didn’t rise to that level when a man was seen firing what officers initially believed to be a small-caliber handgun into the air while walking on 8th Avenue just south of 8th Street.
According to a Safford Police report, a Graham County Sheriff’s Office deputy was at the Speedway gas station at the intersection of 8th Street and 8th Avenue when a man – later identified as Sammy Contreras, 36, pulled a pistol out of his waistband and fired two shots into the air.
The pistol turned out to be a CO2-powered pellet gun, however, it did make a noise the deputy associated with a small-caliber pistol – such as a .22 caliber handgun.
Multiple patrons at the gas station reacted to the shots – according to the deputy’s report – and the deputy drove his patrol vehicle across the intersection and initiated his emergency lights.
The deputy contacted Contreras – who at that time did not have the gun in his hands – and questioned why he had fired it. Contreras then reportedly “quickly reached down into his waistband and pulled (out) the pistol”, which was all black in color.
The deputy ordered Contreras to drop the gun – still not knowing it was a pellet gun – and step back. Contreras reportedly didn’t immediately drop the gun and had to be ordered a second time before complying with the deputy.
After examining the gun, the deputy explained to Contreras that with the sound and look of the pellet gun, it could easily be mistaken for a firearm, and pulling it out when contacted by law enforcement could get him hurt.
The Safford officer then arrived at the scene and – after being informed of the situation – arrested Contreras for disorderly conduct and also gave him a citation for shooting the pellet gun in the city limits. In Safford, it is against ordinance 9.16.010 section D to discharge “any air gun, ‘B-B’ gun, gas-operated gun or any instrument, toy or weapon . . .” Exceptions include private property and public or private grounds that “are utilized for the purpose of an organized met or shooting match . . .”
Contreras was then taken to jail and booked on his disorderly conduct charge and city of Safford weapons ordinance violation.