A prosecutor in southern New Jersey has asked the public not to buy handgun-shaped cellphone cases, warning that it could cause confusion and harbor dangerous consequences.
The office of Ocean County prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato posted on Facebook photos of the case brandished at the camera, tucked in a woman’s back pocket, and held to her ear.
“Please folks – this cell phone case is not a cool product or a good idea,” reads the post from Mr. Coronato’s office. “A police officer’s job is hard enough, without having to make a split second decision in the dark of night when someone decides without thinking to pull this out while stopped for a motor vehicle violation. What do you think?”
Judging by the responses recorded in the comments, the public concurs. One user wrote that the phone case was “the second worst idea ever,” receiving nearly 50 replies in agreement.
Another comment, garnering more than 800 likes, read: “That manufacturer should be held responsible for any shootings etc. What a senseless, provocative idea. Greedy moron. Typical 'take no responsibility' moron.”
Coronato's warning was not prompted by any specfic incident involving the cases, but a response to concerns expressed by several members of law enforcement, Al Della Fave, spokesman for the prosecutors' office, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The first thing you notice is the realistic butt of the weapon and the trigger guard,” he said. “And most kids ... carry their cell phones in their back pocket, and if they were to reach back for it, to pull it out to make a call, it's the same motion as someone pulling a concealed weapon.”
The warning comes on the heels of several high-profile incidents that involved authorities mistakenly shooting civilians they perceived to be armed, particularly children. Last November, amid rioting tensions over police brutality in Ferguson, a Cleveland officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice near a playground, who turned out to be carrying a toy gun.
It echoed a similar narrative from California the year before, where a sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 13-year-old Andy López whose toy rifle he mistook for an assault weapon.
After the shooting of Rice, the St. Louis County police directed a tweet to parents last year, asking them to be more vigilant about how their items could appear. “If you or your children have an air soft or pellet gun please sit them down at [sic] talk to them about this tragedy. Warn them that these ‘toys’ do look like real guns and could result in the police getting called on them,” it said.