With remarkable timing, someone sent me this item just as I was publishing a post about what to do and not do when encountering officers at internal checkpoints. I did mention that you should "not do anything crazy," and just to clarify, that includes pointing anything—anything at all—at a police officer.
Because they plainly could mistake anything at all for a weapon.
According to FOX31 in Colorado, 27-year-old Nathen Channing was arrested Sunday night "for pointing a banana at a pair of Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies, both of whom initially believed the piece of fruit was a handgun." The deputies were driving (in separate cars) and the man was walking on the sidewalk. This is what happened next—
—I'm sorry, I just noticed the first officer's name is "Bunch" so I had to contemplate that for a second.
Okay, here's what happened next:
Eventually, [Deputy] Bunch wrote, Channing "reached into the left side of his coat and pulled out a yellow object, pointing it into the air then in my direction as I approached him."
"Fearing it was a weapon," Bunch wrote that he sped off. And knowing [Deputy] Love was traveling behind him, Bunch said he radioed his fellow deputy to warn him. As he returned to the area, Bunch wrote he witnessed Channing point the same object at Love.
As Love got out of his vehicle and approached Channing, Bunch wrote, his fellow deputy said he "observed what appeared to be a yellow tube with a black center" and also stated he "thought it was a gun."
"Deputy Love stated he was in fear for his life at this point and was in the process of pulling out his handgun when Nathen yelled, 'It's a banana!'" Bunch wrote.
Where to start?
Let's start with Channing, who admitted he did this as a "trial run" for a YouTube video somewhat similar to the kind I just mentioned (at the link above). As Deputy Bunch wrote in his arrest affidavit, Channing's "only explanation for pointing the banana at law enforcement was [that] it was a joke. He thought it would 'lighten the holiday spirit.'" It would have, and I guess it has anyway, for different reasons. But it could also have lightened the officers' guns by several grams. That's the problem.
Then of course there are the deputies who claim to have mistaken a banana for a gun. I actually think it's hard to criticize them too much here, given that somebody pointed something at them while they were driving by and couldn't observe too closely. At the very least, they'd have been justified in stopping to read this guy the riot act if only to deter him from pointing anything at police officers. But it does seem a little ridiculous to actually arrest a man and charge him with "felony menacing" because he pointed a banana at you.
According to Bunch, at least, a banana could resemble a handgun. "Based on training and experience," he wrote, "I have seen handguns in many shapes and colors and perceived this [yellow tube with a black center] to be a handgun." Are there curved yellow handguns? Maybe so. [Update: there are yellow ones, at least.] Bunch continued, describing the Banana Incident in typical police-report manner: the suspect, "by physical action, knowingly placed Deputy Love and I in imminent fear by use of an article fashioned in the manner to cause us to reasonably believe it was a deadly weapon." Well, he didn't fashion it that way himself, as Deputy Bunch of all people should know, but he did take it out and point it at police officers. Don't do that. With anything.
Monty Python explained this decades ago, but it's worth a refresher.