Santa Barbara police were called to the Baja Fresh in La Cumbre Plaza Friday afternoon on reports that a man was sitting at a table with a gun exposed. After several officers responded and set up a perimeter, they contacted the man and determined the gun was, in fact, an airsoft gun, according to Lt. Paul McCaffrey, although the gun appeared to be real. Airsoft guns are realistic looking guns which fire small, spherical plastic pellets, and are popular toys.
The man wasn’t acting suspicious, McCaffrey said, but a gun sitting “prominently” on the table was enough to worry people at the restaurant. Police received numerous phone calls from patrons and workers at Baja Fresh just before 2:30 p.m., and people were fearfully leaving the restaurant. “Displaying anything that looks like a gun in today’s climate scares people,” McCaffrey said. “It’s one more thing we don’t need.”
McCaffrey, who saw the gun, described it as a long, pistol grip, pump-action shotgun, complete with a laser site and scope. It also had an orange-covered tip, indicating it was a toy, which the 36-year-old local man had covered.
When asked why he left the toy gun exposed, the man replied, “It’s not illegal,” according to McCaffrey, who described the man as “cavalier.”
Similar incidents in which toys are mistaken for the real deal happen a few times a year, McCaffrey said, and police always need to respond as though they are dealing with an actual weapon.
McCaffrey also reported a quiet weekend at the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo. There were no problems of note. In the past, gang fights in and around the fairgrounds were problems, but this year there were none, he said.