APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Appleton police officers are sounding the alarm on the dangers of fake guns after Erb Pool got put in lockdown on Thursday afternoon.

Brillion resident Stacey Plate was at the pool with her three daughters and her niece when this all happened.

“I saw lifeguards kind of running out and saying that everyone needs to get inside the locker rooms because we’re being put on lockdown,” said Plate. “So that’s what we did kind of slowly followed everyone because there were a lot of people.”

Appleton police told Local 5 News that Erb Pool lifeguards saw three boys running at each other with what appeared to be a gun. Even though the kids were outside the pool fence, pool officials decided to place the facility on lockdown.

Plate said she was struck by how calm everybody was while they huddled together in the pool’s locker room.

“I told them (my kids) they’re doing this to keep us safe, we’re in here to be safe,” said Plate. “We don’t know what’s happening on the outside but we just need to listen and follow directions.”

Plate said the lockdown lasted for about 20 minutes and that she remained as calm as she could.

“I was terrified, I held it together for my kids, I didn’t want to show that I was terrified but I was,” said Plate.

Appleton police officers told Local 5 News that when they arrived they found three high school boys with BB guns that looked very similar to real guns. Lewis said the boys didn’t threaten anyone with the BB guns but were running at each other with the guns.

Appleton Police Department captain Gary Lewis said that BB guns can be very hard to distinguish from real guns by looks alone.

“If they look like a real firearm and they’re presented in the manner of a real firearm, you are putting your own safety in extreme jeopardy between a potential interaction with a law enforcement officer or a legally carrying armed citizen,” said Lewis.

His message to parents in the community.

“There’s nowhere truly safe to be playing with these fake guns in public spaces,” said Lewis.

Plate said she hopes this situation will encourage parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of fake guns that look like real ones.

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Captain Lewis says the boys were apologetic and cooperative when talking with officers. He said officers issued the kids a citation which won’t turn into criminal charges as long as they continue to work with their school resource officers and stay out of trouble. 

Appleton police department officials added: “Parents, please keep these types of incidents in mind when determining if these types of facsimile guns are appropriate for your children to have. These facsimile guns pose significant safety concerns as others may not immediately recognize them as BB-style guns. In addition, many of these also fire some form of projectile, oftentimes fired by use of compressed air, and would also pose a safety risk without proper protective equipment being worn.”