"I shot a kid. He was 13 years old. It was dark. I couldn't see him. He had a ray gun, looked real enough..."Whenever a character is shot down because his attackers thought he had a weapon or was making a hostile movement. Most of the time, the victim is held up at gunpoint, and decides it's a good idea to reach for something. Carrying a Weapon for Intimidation is just asking for it. Sometimes the Idiot Ball is held by the victim, sometimes by the attackers. See also Suicide by Cop. Sometimes involves He's Got a Weapon! and Poor Communication Kills. Tragically, it is Truth in Television. In heavily-armed societies like the USA (where the police are also armed!), anarchic or rebellious areas, and in warzones, many people have been shot because police or soldiers thought they might be about to fire a weapon at them... even though many were only trying to quickly produce identification documents. Your best chance of survival lies in announcing what you're going to do slowly, loudly, and clearly in a language the armed people can understand, asking if they understood you, and doing it slowly. And better training for police officers and soldiers, instead of pilling all responsibility on the victim would help. Compare/contrast with Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence. This is a Death Trope, so all spoilers will be untagged.
— Sgt. Al Powell, Die Hard
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Anime & Manga
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Section 9 escorts a convoy with plutonium out of the ruins of Tokyo when a gang of refugees blocks the street. Clearing the streets turns into a firefight when a soldier mistakes a wrench in a man's hand for a gun (thanks to a bit of a prod from Gouda). But as the entire convoy was just a decoy, the entire thing was probably set up by Gouda with exactly such an outcome in mind.
- Happens literally in Angel Densetsu, with one of the policeman thinking that the wallet must be a hidden weapon, whereas Kitano was just trying to give a lost wallet to the police. It's Played for Laughs.
- Golgo 13 has threatened to do this many times. Reach for something — anything — in your coat pocket and he will have his gun aimed at you before you can blink. So make sure you pull the object out slowly so that he can see that it isn't a weapon.
- A character in Monster becomes paranoid that his bodyguard is going to kill him and shoots him when the guard reaches in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes. The other bodyguards come for revenge.
- In Arakawa Under the Bridge, there's a scene in which Sister (an incredibly tall and well-built mercenary dressed in a nun's habit) attacks a man who reaches inside their jacket for a business card.
- In Tekkonkinkreet, during the early confrontation between the yakuza and the Apaches, Kimura reaches into his inside pocket and ... the Apaches are getting nervous ... produces a cigarette.
- Richard Pryor discusses this trope at length in several of his stand-up performances.
Richard Pryor: See, white folks get a ticket, they pull over, "Hey, Officer, yes, glad to be of help, cheerio!" A nigger got to be talking about, "I AM REACHING INTO MY POCKET FOR MY LICENSE! Because I don't wanna be no motherfucking accident!"
- This is how The Pointman dies in 100 Bullets.
- The "War Games" arc of the Batman comic continuity started when, at a meeting between Gotham mob bosses, one reached inside his jacket for a lighter.
- Invoked in Batman: Year One, where Detective Flass, in one of his many Kick the Dog moments, beats up a Black youth who was minding his own business. When questioned by Jim Gordon, Flass pulls out the youth's comb and claims he mistook it for a switchblade.
- The last issue of Transmetropolitan has the National Guard attempting to lock down one of The City's universities; the unarmed students rush the troops, slapping smiley-face stickers on their uniforms in protest. One of the guardsmen, seeing a demonstrator reaching into his jacket (to print more stickers on a portable maker, by the way), opens fire. The whole thing quickly turns into a bloodbath massacre as all the guardsmen follow suit, making for a very obvious Shout-Out to the Kent State shooting in Real Life.
- In Cloak & Dagger, Cloak's backstory tells how his friend was shot by the police when they thought he was participating in a robbery and refused to listen to them shouting for him to freeze. Cloak, because of his stutter, couldn't stop them before they fired, and the guilt from this incident prompted him to run away from home.
- Played for laughs in Almost Heroes. "Hold your fire! It's only a ''squirrel!" "Oh." *Beat* "He's got something in his hand! Ah!" *shooting ensues*
- A non-fatal variant in The Departed when, during a shakedown, Costigan pistol-whips a bookie and knocks a couple of his teeth out. "I was goin' for my fuckin' cigarettes!"
- In An Innocent Man, this sparks the events of the plot when two police officers shoot a man, mistaking his hair dryer for a weapon. He lives, and fights for his innocence after being framed by said police officers.
- In Casino, Bernie Blue is shot by a cop who thought his foil-wrapped sandwich was a gun.
- Cop Land opens with a police shooting of a pair of black teenagers on the road, whose shooter thought they popped one of his tires with a gun. In fact, the "gunman" was taunting him with a steering wheel lock, and the tire popped because of a leftover shard of glass from a beer bottle he crushed driving out of a parking lot earlier that night. In an early sign that Dirty Cops are involved, one of his colleagues tries to plant evidence of a firearm to exonerate him.
- In Crash, Hansen, while off duty, shoots Peter when he reaches for his statuette.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) starts off with Klaatu pulling out a strange device, his gift to the president, and getting shot by military personnel.
- Die Hard: Al Powell shot a kid who brandished a toy gun, which Powell mistook for a real one. The guilt from this incident lead him to be unable to draw his gun on anyone else, so he was relegated to desk work.
- Falling Down has a classic example, where D-Fens pulls a water gun on Martin Prendergast, intentionally getting himself killed.
- In Gran Torino, Walt pulls out a lighter acting as if it were a gun, intentionally scaring the gang to shoot him dead so that he can get them arrested for murder in revenge for what they did to his friend Sue.
- In Bean, Mr. Bean sees some security guards at the airport, and thinks their guns are so cool he reaches into his jacket and pretends to have one himself. The guards see him, and think he's actually got a gun. Hilarity ensues.
- In the Tim Allen/Kirstey Alley comedy For Richer For Poorer, Allen's character pulls out a phone when he steps out of a car to be met by cops. One cop shoots the phone, believing it to be a gun.
- Another example of an Eastwood film. A Perfect World ends with Butch being shot by a sniper when he was reaching in his pocket to give Phillip something. Eastwood's character punches him out for making the mistake, even though other characters point out that anyone could have made the mistake (it was mostly out of frustration).
- Spoofed in the Matthew Perry/Liz Hurley film, Serving Sara. Perry's character reaches into his coat to grab an envelope, and everyone in the place has a gun on him. He pulls out the envelope with that look on his face that clearly says "You're all idiots."
- In the Jet Li film The Bodyguard From Beijing (Known as The Defender in the US and UK), a cop gets into trouble when his sidearm is swapped with a lookalike water pistol by a mischievous kid shortly before a fight breaks out (the kid tries to return the gun when the shooting starts, but the cop didn't know that the gun in his hand was the fake and thought it was another joke).
- And speaking of Clint Eastwood, there's another example in the film Unforgiven. W.W. Beauchamp, a Penny Dreadful writer, is detained along with the gunfighter he's shadowing by the Big Bad's Mooks. When asked to provide credentials, Beauchamp reaches into his bag to produce a sample of his writing... and immediately realizes that every gun in sight is now cocked and pointed at him. He promptly wets himself.
- In one of the endings of Tsotsi, after handing back the child and placing his hands behind his head while covered by a lone young cop, he remembers he has the child's bottle in his back pocket. He whips it out — and the cop screams "Weapon!" and blows him away.
- In Hook, Captain Hook challenges an older Peter an with "Draw your weapon, Peter". As Peter's a lawyer (long story), he draws... his checkbook (surprise), and asks "How much do you want?". Hook shoots the checkbook (and kills one of his pirate mooks. Like he cares).
- Almost happens in the cop's story in Reservoir Dogs. The cop pulled someone over and trained a gun on him when he started reaching for the glove box. What was he reaching for? License and registration.
- In National Security, Hank (white) and Earl (black) are security guards (who hate each other), chasing after a van of burglars who have broken into a warehouse. They are stopped by armed cops who demand they get out of the car, Hank comes up and starts waving for the cops to go after the van. The cop yells at him to put down the gun he's still holding. Hank does so. Earl is pissed off, claiming that had he pulled out his wallet, they'd have shot him.
- Averted by Schultz in Django Unchained, who is always careful to inform the opposite (and very agitated) party before pulling any non-gun object out of his pocket.
- Nicke Nolte averts this in 48 Hrs. when he and a woman have each other at gunpoint (she does not initially know that he is a cop, and then wants proof), announcing in a clear voice that he is going to bring his badge out of his jacket pocket, and then does so slowly and carefully.
- In Braveheart, when one of the Irish men that William and his troop meet in the forest reaches into his coat, he is being stopped by Hamish, but it turns out the man only wanted to pull out a present for William.
- Ragtime: Sarah dies by running up to a vice-presidential candidate with a furtively concealed baby.
- Among P.J. O'Rourke's advice for travelling in the third world, he recommended wearing a shirt with a chest pocket when driving and keeping your passport there. Anyone who can assemble a roadblock will demand to see it, and may get the wrong idea if you keep it in your jacket.
- In the Burn Notice novel "The Fix," one of the extortionists tells Westen that he is pulling out his wallet, since Westen has already shot 1 man in the leg.
- In the New Jedi Order series of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the paranoid Nom Anor nearly kills a supplicant who tries to present him with a gift because he thinks she might be drawing a weapon.
- Very, very narrowly averted in The Dresden Files, when Dresden feels an envelope poking into his side, and he reaches to adjust it while in the middle of a conversation with Gentleman Johnny Marcone. Marcone's goons react predictably, and Marcone stops them about half a second short of pumping Dresden full of lead.
- It should be noted that Marcone can draw and use a weapon faster than his bodyguards (and just about every other human, come to that). He just knew Harry could paste him without so much as twitching, and moreover, that Harry probably wouldn't do so.
- Marcone also stabs Will in the bicep before the enraged werewolf can move.
- Not a shooting, but in Summer Knight, Harry is attacked by a group of paranoid changelings who think he's out to get them. He's hit in the head, making it so he can't speak properly — which the changelings interpret as him trying to cast a spell, and keep hitting him.
- Invoked by Molly Carpenter to kill a Fomor servitor and a corrupt cop while the former is bribing the latter to look the other way while he kidnaps a child. One quick illusion spell to make the payment look like a pistol, and both of them are dead.
- It should be noted that Marcone can draw and use a weapon faster than his bodyguards (and just about every other human, come to that). He just knew Harry could paste him without so much as twitching, and moreover, that Harry probably wouldn't do so.
- Invoked by Nadia Stafford in her backstory in Exit Strategy: when she was a cop, a rapist was about to walk free. She patiently waited until he reached into his jacket, then shot him between the eyes. She knew he wasn't going for a weapon, but it gave her plausible deniability.
- This nearly happens in A Song of Ice and Fire in a parley between Renly and Stannis Baratheon. Renly reaches into his cloak, which nearly causes Stannis to bare steel before he sees that Renly is drawing out a peach. Renly later causes him to draw steel anyway by insulting his wife.
- Happens in the Expanded Universe novels for BattleTech. In Measure of a Hero, the outspoken sister of protagonist Archer Christifori is critical of the ruling princess. She is taken in for an interview, but the puffed-up Glory Hound lieutenant assigned to escort her watches her pick up notes and inadvertently pick up a letter opener at the same time. He shoots first and asks questions later. This, along with the lieutenant becoming a Karma Houdini under orders from the same princess that Christifori's sister was riling against, causes Christifori to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. This eventually results in Christifori supporting a growing pan-galactic rebellion against said princess and conquering two entire planets by the end of the book.
Live Action TV
- On Flashpoint, somebody is shot that way, and the father tries to take revenge on the cop. All sides are portrayed sympathetically.
- Both subverted and played straight in The Commish. Commissioner Scali and his Chief of Detectives are going undercover to gather evidence against a pornographer. At one point the pornographer reaches under his coat, the detective draws his gun shouting "Don't move!" only for it to be a cigar case. At the end of the episode they've no evidence against the pornographer, even though he indirectly caused the death of their friend's daughter. The pornographer is smirking at this, and reaches for a cigar to celebrate whereupon the detective shouts "Don't move!" and shoots him. Although the only other witness (a police officer who entered the room at that moment) backs up his statement that the criminal appeared to be reaching for a gun, Scali knows the truth and insists that the detective leave his department.
- Subverted in Criminal Minds, where the killer reaches for his pocket, which turns out to contain only his phone. However, it's pretty clear that this was an intentional Suicide by Cop.
- Lie to Me: In the episode "Undercover", Lightman is called in to determine whether a black teenager shot by cops actually was armed or whether it was a case of this.
- Done in an early episode of The Shield: The Strike Team raids a gangbanger's house, and the banger in question flees out the back door. When the detectives pursue him, he turns around and points what looks like a gun in their direction, prompting Lem to shoot him (he survives). On closer examination, they see he wasn't carrying a gun, but a carton of untaxed cigarettes. Not wanting to face another Internal Affairs investigation, Vic plants a gun in the guy's hand. This is not the last screwup from which they scramble to recover in this episode.
- The X-Files had a Master of Illusion that committed Suicide by Cop by making Krychek think the guy had a gun. It turned out that he was actually holding a Bible.
- Played for laughs in Frasier, where Martin Crane goes to the bank to try to return extra money he was given by mistake, and ends up spooking the teller and security guard due to having his hand in his pocket and saying things a bank robber normally would. A bit of an Idiot Ball, as Martin is a retired cop, and should know better.
- In Heroes Volume 5, Matt and Sylar end up Sharing a Body as a result of the Volume 4 finale. Sylar takes control and sets off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against everyone involved. Matt manages to derail this by scribbling a death threat on a diner napkin while Sylar's not paying attention, and then when the cops show up he uses his psychic powers to make them think he/Sylar is pulling a gun.
- In Between the Lines, a power drill is mistaken for a gun. It turns out the man with the drill was up to no good after all.
- Michael Moore mocks this trope in one episode of The Awful Truth, where he does an "African-American Wallet Exchange." He offers African Americans a free day-glo orange wallet in exchange for their old one, so the police don't mistake the wallet for a gun.
- Lost features an inversion in Ana-Lucia's backstory. She was called to a house and ran into some guy. He told her he was a student and asked her to let him pull out his ID — just as recommended in the trope description. When she did, he instead pulled out a gun. Although Ana-Lucia survived, she ended up miscarrying her unborn child. The guy later turned himself in, but she claimed it wasn't him. Once he was out of custody, she followed him until he was alone, then shot him six times.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Banks note a strange man wandering suspiciously around their house. Will decides to spook him away...
Will: [threateningly] Hey man, what you want?Man: [reaches in his pocket]Will: [running away, screaming like a little girl] Ohmygod! UNCLE PHIL, LOOK OUT! HE'S GOT A...BUSINESS CARD!
- In another instance, Will and Carlton are mugged at an ATM. After handing over their cash, Carlton tells the mugger he has more in his wallet and reaches into his coat. The mugger panics, and shoots at Carlton, hitting Will.
- Happens several times on Blue Heelers. One where a friend of Nick's had set up a paintball course and he shoots the police with one, causing Adam to nearly return fire. Another is when Dash and Adam are questioning the Darcys and they make it look like they have a gun, threatening the officers with what turns out to be a vacuum hose (making it out to be a gun). Later, stories are shared, including PJ thinking a glint off a watch was a gun and Tom in Vietnam where he slaughtered a pig when he thought there was Vietcong hiding in the bushes. Another episode has Jack pull over a driver and is threatened with a gun. Jack shoots him in self defense.
- Nearly happens in the Castle episode "Sucker Punch". Luckily, Ryan and Esposito subdue the man going for his cell phone by means other than gunfire.
- One episode of Law & Order, Lennie Briscoe and Ed Green were searching a house when the suspect came back home. Lennie called police, the suspect reached into his pocket before Ed Green tackled him. Turns out the guy was only reaching for his cell phone. Another episode had this invoked by the criminal, as he threw down an object onto the ground. It took a second for the police chasing him to notice it was NOT an explosive, but just a lighter. However, that second was all the guy needed to reach the Russian Embassy.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent has detective Mike Logan shoot a man who turns out to be reaching for his badge — he was an undercover cop. Logan is distraught at his mistake, and though he is cleared of wrongdoing, he seeks counseling to deal with his guilt.
- NYPD Blue:
- Andy Sipowicz relates a story to his son, Andy Jr., when the former is trying to teach the latter lessons on how to become a good cop. Andy Sr. was pounding a beat at midnight, when he saw two well-dressed guys in an alley standing next to a Cadillac; one of them had what looked like a real machine gun in his hands. He came very close to shooting them both, believing them to be wiseguys. He later learned that the building they were standing next to was a toy factory which made toy machine-guns; one of the well-dressed guys was an executive of the company who was taking one of the toys home for his kid at the end of his work shift. Andy Sr. tells Andy Jr. this story to drive home the point that to be a good cop, you should know the people and places on your beat, the things they do, and the times they do them.
- In another episode, while Martinez & Medavoy are in their car, Martinez shoots a man in a car next to them who was pulling out a gun. However, in the ensuing commotion, the gun disappears and Martinez is suspected of doing this. By the end of the episode, the gun is found, clearing Martinez of any wrongdoing.
- Another episode has the detectives dealing with the fallout from the Amadou Diallo case (see below). They're frustrated by the fact that that incident tainted the entire department, and they get blamed for it when they had nothing to do with it.
- An especially heartbreaking example occurs in season 4 of Hill Street Blues, when an officer responding to a prowler call enters a seemingly empty apartment and sees a gun being pointed at him. It's a toy belonging to a nine year-old kid who'd been left at home while his mother went to a job interview. Chief Daniels, with his usual human kindness and sensitivity, insists on bringing charges of child endangerment in a desperate attempt to draw fire from the police department.
- Played for laughs in Russian police dramedy Uboynaya Sila (literally "killing power", but intentional pun on Homicide department). A suspect complains that every time police stop him to check his ID, they beat him for no reason. Then he reaches for his passport so abruptly, the heroes grab their guns. Then they explain why he shouldn't do that.
- In one episode of Adam-12, Reed has a bum at gunpoint. The bum almost drops his wine bottle and lunges to save it. Reed thought he was going for a gun and nearly shot him before Malloy (who was at a different angle and could see the bottle) intervened. Malloy proceeds to tell Reed that "anybody could have made that mistake", and chewed the bum out for his stupidity. Made worse because, in that episode, Reed was extremely jumpy because somebody was trying to kill him.
- On Boardwalk Empire, a nervous Roy Phillips shoots a business rival dead in a dark car park when he reaches into his jacket pocket. We don't see what he was reaching for, as Gillian persuades him to get in the car and drive away. However, it's all been staged to make Gillian think Roy is a murderer who she can confess her own crimes to.
- One episode of NCIS: Los Angeles starts off with Deeks shooting a guy that it turns out was reaching for a cell phone. Granted, it turns out the guy was an Asshole Victim anyway. Not only was he a Neo-Nazi, he was assaulting a black woman, screamed "You wanna die, hero?!" as Deeks and Blye were running towards him shouting "LAPD!", and was, according to Blye, a multiple murderer wanted by the FBI.
- And then subverted and played: a) the guy was an undercover cop and not actually an Neo-Nazi, b) Deeks was shooting blanks and therefore he's not dead and c) Deeks was in on the whole plan. Kensi was the one who needed to believe in it.
- On Person of Interest, Detective Carter was forced to kill a man who pulled a gun on her, but when investigators checked the body, there was no gun present because a group of corrupt cops that wanted to force her to stop investigating them had removed the gun to make it look like this trope.
- In Orphan Black, one of the factors which probably lead to Beth Childs' suicide was the fact that she killed an innocent civilian, thinking the lady's phone was a gun. Subverted. We learn later that the "victim" was actually part of an extremist religious group determined to kill Childs and the other clones, and Beth killed her on purpose. Due to not knowing how deep the conspiracy went, and wanting to maintain a facade of ignorance, she and her partner planted the mobile phone to make the shooting look like an accident.
- In Smallville:
- In "Exile", Clark Kent, infected with red kryptonite, robs a bank. When confronted by the cops, he reaches into his pocket to goad them into shooting him, amused that their bullets can't hurt him.
- In "Noir", Jimmy Olsen dreams he is in a Noir, where he is a detective and his friends and peers are classic noir archetypes. While talking to Lex Luthor's counterpart, Lex reaches into his jacket. Jimmy instantly shoots him, only to find he was just reaching for a files folder.
- Averted in Jekyll. When Dr. Jackman is being threatened by a teenage punk with a knife, he calmly declares that he's not pulling a weapon from his jacket. It is, in fact, a digital voice recorder.
- In one episode of CSI: New York, a cop was pursuing a guy who robbed a jewelry store after the latter took a few potshots at him. The perp turned a corner and ran past another guy who happened to be wearing the exact same clothes. The other guy reached into his jacket to assure that the necklace he bought as an engagement present was safe and turned around. The cop then turned the corner, mistook the innocent guy for the perp (he didn't get a good look at the perp prior to this), saw him reaching into his jacket, and shot him. Complicating things further, both the perp and the bystander were black while the cop was white, leading to a riot. The cop is crushed when he learns the whole truth, and tells Mac he wishes he could go back in time and take the bullet instead.
- In the Danish crime series, The Eagle, a CIA agent convinces one of the detectives that a Muslim man with a mobile phone is about to activate a remote-controlled bomb. After he's shot it turns out he was just making a phone call, and the CIA guy is a Rogue Agent who set up the situation deliberately.
- Blue Bloods:
- In a season 2 episode, Danny shoots a suspect who seemed to be drawing a gun. The guy was actually a cop about to flash his shield.
- In a season 6 episode, a police officer named Thomas Scully is up for promotion to Sergeant. However, Frank knows this could pose trouble, because 14 years earlier, Scully and three other cops were responsible for shooting an unarmed Muslim teenager 61 times in a dark apartment. All four officers were acquitted of all charges, but three of the four (Scully being the exception) resigned in disgrace after the trial. Later in the episode, it's mentioned by Jamie that Scully did a course on the shooting in question, explaining that their precinct had been on edge due it being after 9/11 and shortly after a cop had been shot in a housing project. The victim had been reaching for his wallet when they shot him.
- Played with in Luke Cage when Diamondback introduces himself to Shades' guys. He seemingly pulls his right hand out of his pocket, waves it around like a gun, then "fires" a real round into one of their shoulders. They missed the real gun he had in his other hand, which he proceeds to use for kicks.
- Bruce Springsteen's jarring song "American Skin (41 Shots)" regarding the real-life death of Amadou Diallo.
Is it a gun?
Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet?
This is your life
It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
Ain't no secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
Your American skin
- The same incident inspired Le Tigre's "Bang Bang".
- In some versions of Arthurian legend, most notably Le Morte D Arthur, this is how the final battle happens. Arthur asks to parley with Mordred, and just as things are on the point of being sorted out, one of Mordred's (or possibly Arthur's) retainers is attacked by a snake. He draws his sword to kill it, the opposing knights see a drawn sword, and...
- In Alpha Protocol, an ice cream shop owner reaches for something in an intense situation, where the player has the option to shoot him. He pulls out an amazing looking three-scoop ice cream cone for free.
- Alternately, if you screw up the conversation, he instead draws an assault rifle from behind the counter and you have to kill him.
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood: In the final scene, William gets in between Ray and Thomas during their fight. William pretends to pull a gun, intentionally getting shot and killed by Ray. William actually pulled the Bible.
- Twice in Heavy Rain:
- When Norman Jayden has the choice to shoot Nathaniel. Nathaniel reaches around like he's about to stab Carter, but reveals a crucifix instead.
- In one ending, Ethan is held up by the police. He simply turns around while holding his arm, and they shoot him... about 10 times. You figured after the first, they would've noticed he didn't have a weapon...
- Subverted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, when Nate reaches for something while being held up, the muggers point their guns at him. He just pulls out a container and shakes it at them.
- Averted or played straight, depending on your actions, in Police Quest 3. One guy you pull over reaches for something in his pocket and approaches you. He's actually an undercover agent pulling out his ID badge, and really should know better. You get a game over for shooting him.
- Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth: While there were no guns, Edgeworth does get accused of murder for holding a wallet.
- Later, which is actually earlier since it's a flashback, he sees Hardboiled Detective Badd get upset and reach into his coat. He gets scared and thinks Badd is going for his gun, when he's really pulling out a mirror. It's a slight Brick Joke, since at the end of the game, he really does pull out a gun.
- Poker Night at the Inventory: If Tycho drops out first, he starts pulling something out of his pocket. The other three characters aim their weapons at him, only for Tycho to exclaim that it's just a granola bar. Heavy and Max put their weapons away, but Strong Bad demands the granola bar.
- In the Back to the Future game, "Kid" Tannen asks for a light and Marty pulls out a lighter... which just so happens to be shaped like a gun, making Tannen's mooks' reaction more understandable. Marty quickly explains, and even shows the lighter to Tannen, which helps him out in other waysnote .
- In World of Warcraft, defied for Alliance players going to meet Vol'jin during Escalation, Zen'tabra tells you to keep your hands where they can see them; an Alliance soldier in Durotar is suspicious enough, but everyone is really jumpy with the Horde civil war and Vol'jin was almost assassinated, so any odd move could be misinterpreted as hostile. This comes after some Darkspear guards trap you when you get too close and Zen'tabra has to tell them to back down.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, one sidequest reveals that this was ultimately the cause of the tragedy of Red Crossing, the incident that triggered the Exalted March against the Dales. One of the Emerald Knights was seen in the company of a Chantry sister from Red Crossing. His sister, a fellow Emerald Knight, feared that he was being tricked into defecting and followed him in secret. When she saw the Chantry sister running towards her while holding something, she immediately fired an arrow. The Chantry sister was holding a letter explaining that the Chantry sister and the Emerald Knight had fallen in love and were going to be married. While the relations between elves and humans in the Dales were already poor, this was the catalyst that led to the attack on Red Crossing and the Exalted March that drove the elves out of the Dales.
- In Wasteland, an early quest in the town of Highpool has you put down a rabid dog that got loose. Once you've done the deed, its 12-year-old owner, Bobby, flies into a rage and charges you with a rifle. The game places you into combat, and its only after you've resolved the situation (usually by shooting him dead) that it tells you it was a BB Gun.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, former Well-Intentioned Extremist Jet approaches the gang and offers his help. Katara doesn't trust him, and when he reaches for something in his vest, she pins him against a wall with ice. What he was grabbing was a poster for the gang's missing sky bison, Appa, which he wants to help find.
- Played for laughs in The Boondocks, when Uncle Ruckus is shot repeatedly and beaten by police for holding an orange safety-wallet. At the time they were confusingly demanding that he both keep his hands up and show some ID, so he slowly and clearly announced, "I am slowly reaching into my pants for my wallet", but they shot anyway. The city offers him 14 million dollars in compensation, but he refuses to accept it, and instead accepts full blame, simply demanding to be hired as a police officer so that he can do the same thing to other black men.
- Later, they do it to him again, despite the fact that he is a police officer in full uniform.
- Futurama does this as well:
"He's reaching for something! Get 'im!"
"I'm just picking my nose..."
"He's picking his nose! Get 'im!"
- A non-shooting example in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Schoolhouse Rocked": When Lil' Arturo of the Gangrene Gang takes the spot for show-and-tell, he introduces to the class his most prized item, Maria Conchita-Theresa Rosalita (AKA Maria). The three girls, thinking he's carrying a knife, attempt to seize him despite Ms. Keane stressing that fighting is not allowed in the classroom, but it turns out Maria is just a styling comb — albeit one that folds out, with a handle that looks like a switchblade.
- In the Robot Chicken episode where the Mario Brothers wind up in Vice City (though it looks more like Liberty City, but still), when the police has them cornered, Luigi surrenders with a wrench in his hand, prompting the cops to shoot him dead and leading Mario on a short-lived Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Cop: He's got a wrench! Take him down!
- Family Guy has the episode "A Shot In the Dark" where Peter forms a neighborhood watch after his couch is "stolen" (due to him leaving it on the curb to use as an outdoor drinking couch). One night, he sees someone trying to break into Cleveland's house, and when the figure reaches inside his pocket, Peter shoots him, only to discover that it was Cleveland Jr, who hadn't heard Peter ask him to step away from the window due to having his Ipod on, which was what he was reaching for. The entire affair turns into a hate crime debate (in reality, Peter could only see a dark shape and had no idea who it was, much less his skin color). Peter avoids jail only by a lawyer hired by Carter Pewterschmidt instead painting Cleveland as a dangerous thug, which Peter immediately regrets and admits to shooting Cleveland Jr because he was scared, not out of racism, accepting jail time. Cleveland, realizing Peter really didn't do it out of racism, confesses to the shooting, making it a black-on-black crime, which makes the media instantly lose interest and leave.
- Season 2 of South Park has the episode "Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson", where the Nebraska police are laying siege to the house belonging to Cartman's grandmother due to an escaped Charles Manson having holed up there. When Manson decides to turn himself in, he sends Kenny out with a white flag...
Police: LOOK OUT, HE'S GOT A WHITE FLAG!!! (the police shoot Kenny full of holes)
- The Trope name is based on the Amadou Diallo shooting, in which four New York City police officers fired a total of 41 rounds at a pedestrian whom they thought was pulling out a gun that turned out to be his wallet on February 4th, 1999. It was for a time the poster-child incident of the ongoing debate over police conduct and brutality in the United States. Also, considering that the victim was a black man, there was also suspicion of racism.
- Worth noting that the 41 rounds was harped on in the media as proof of excess, when it's actually police procedure to fire at a target until it goes down, however many shots it takes, and according to reports, Diallo had his back to a wall, meaning he stayed standing longer than he otherwise would have.
- Panicked, repetitive motion is common in combat situations where a terrified combatant has not been properly trained; this is another factor in why some shooters empty a mag without meaning to. It's the same instinct that makes some people flail wildly at the spot where a bug crawled on their body even after the first stroke knocked it away or killed it.
- Truth in Television: Police or military forces under high alert, usually because of a heightened threat of terrorism, may be instructed to fire upon any suspicious or sudden movement by a person they're suspecting of carrying explosives. Because these explosives might be hidden, usually under the suspect's jacket, the police will aim for the head, both to avoid hitting the explosives and to ensure that the victim is incapacitated before reaching the detonating device. This is why you should always tell the cops what you're doing and move slowly if you're held up.
- Sometimes this can be attributed to bad training. If you train an officer in a simulator to always fire at someone making a drawing motion (since it's always a gun in the simulation), then they will "sink to the level of their training" when someone pulls an object on them and conditioned combat reflexes kick in. Some modern simulators now include subjects that draw non-gun objects to train officers to quickly differentiate on the fly to avoid this sort of problematic conditioned response.
- At least two police dash-cam recordings have aired on TruTV's The Smoking Gun Presents of drivers being pulled over and pointing cell phones at police officers in a menacing fashion. Fortunately for the drivers in question, police held fire while identifying the object being pointed at them. Needless to say, Do Not Try This at Home. As commenter Ron Kuby put it in one such instance, "Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that will get you dead." Sadly, half the time, they're attempting Suicide by Cop.
- On a television documentary about the Secret Service, one agent who had been on Reagan's detail related the story about how a kid in a small town, on a dare, had pointed a toy gun at the motorcade and had therefore been within heartbeats of being perforated by numerous weapons, only stopped because the agent had identified the gun as a toy just before he would have drawn his weapon.
- The main reason why toy firearms are always brightly colored or have a bright orange cap on the barrel are specifically to differentiate them from actual weapons. This is the same reason why Megatron is usually a tank nowadays (one of his original forms was a Walther P38 pistol). Of course, this won't protect you if you try something really dumb: Military and police personnel realize it takes no effort to paint a real gun's muzzle orange, and they're not big fans of practical jokes in general.
- One notable example of this that has received much media attention was the 2014 death of Tamir Rice, who was shot dead by police in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, while playing with what was later found to be an air gun that had been specifically altered to look like a real gun. Though according to the released footage, the toy was tucked into Rice's waistband meaning the tip wasn't visible. However the gun wasn't drawn, let alone pointed at the officers, and the footage shows that officers didn't even exit their vehicle but just shot him on the spot. Compounding this was the fact that Tamir was 12 years old.
- There was a rather famous incident that was first shown on WikiLeaks that portrayed an Apache helicopter killing an unarmed cameraman. The justification given was that the angle the soldiers saw the man, combined with the crappy camera quality, ended up making the poor cameraman look like he was carrying an RPG-7.
- A British police officer in Lancashire responding to a report of a man carrying a "samurai sword" ended up Tasering a blind man carrying a white stick. Must have seen too much Zatoichi.
- To be fair, the reports of a man carrying a sword around the neighborhood were eventually proven to be true.
- In a rather astounding example of incompetence, the LAPD in early 2013 was in the middle of a manhunt for Serial Killer Christopher Dorner when they stopped a blue Toyota truck and, suspecting it to be Dorner, immediately opened fire, injuring the driver, 47-year-old Margie Costanza, and critically wounding her 71-year-old mother, who was in the passenger seat. * To compound on this mistake, less than an hour later, another police cruiser which was heading towards the shooting spotted a black Honda truck and proceeded to ram and open fire on the driver. None of the officers were charged with any crime.
- In 2014, a police officer shot a 17-year-old boy in the chest immediately after he answered the door. She claims he had pointed a handgun at her, but eyewitness accounts state that it was a Wii Remote. Note that a Wii Remote looks nothing like a handgun.
- An unfortunate rash of incidents involving cops and dogs have happened around the United States over the years. Numerous police have been shooting family dogs and trying to give the justification that they either felt threatened or that the dog was running at them. Whether or not the dog actually was doesn't seem to matter to the police themselves, as many officers are simply let off the hook with only around a month's suspension without pay at the worst instead of losing their badge entirely, something that many people get up in arms about.
- In general, there may be a reason for the officers to make such statements: they may not know the dog, so when the dog runs up to them, it can be difficult to determine if the dog is coming up to say hello or has been set loose by the owner to attack the officers. This has been especially so with pit bulls, a breed known for being used as an attack dog.
- Controversy still persists over the shooting dead of three IRA members in Gibraltar by British special forces. The official justification is that it was feared one or all had access to bomb detonator controls which were small enough to be carried in a pocket or otherwise hand-held, and that they hadn't indicated surrender or displayed empty hands to the SAS team seeking to detain them. Informed opinion is that this was a demonstration of intent not to Irish terrorists, but to a Spanish government that was making sabre-rattling noises over Gib's sovereignty. Not long after the Falklands War, this was a coded way of telling the Spanish that any military incursion would be met with resolution - taking three terrorists out of circulation was secondary.
- On June 8th, 2011, Ernest Duenez, Jr. was shot to death in Manteca, California by police officers who were told Duenez had a knife. The police dashcam video shows the officers approaching him with guns drawn as he exited his truck, threatening to open fire if he moved. He was then seen reaching into the truck, and he was immediately shot by the police; he died of his injuries shortly afterward. Duenez actually did have a knife on him, however it was found in the bed of his truck - and therefore, away from anywhere Duenez could access it in a timely manner if he'd wanted to cause the officers harm, and the reason why he reached into the truck in the first place was to free his foot which had gotten trapped in the seatbelt when he attempted to exit the truck.