Green Bay -
Investigators in southern Wisconsin say a child playing with a toy gun caused a multi-vehicle crash this week.
It's just the latest in a string of incidents where people thought fake guns were real.
The pictures from Rock County authorities, showing one smashed car and another that flipped, show the aftermath of a child playing with a toy gun.
Investigators say when an 11-year-old pointed a toy gun out a car window in Milton Tuesday, another driver thought it was real and slammed on her brakes, causing a three-car crash. Despite the sight of overturned and mangled cars, no one was seriously injured.
The same day, a California police officer was cleared in the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy who had a pellet gun he thought was a real assault rifle.
In April, Green Bay Police say two guns, though fake, were used to threaten a group of kids in a gang-related incident.
And Wednesday night, Green Bay police say officers stopped a group of teens for suspicious activity, and one of them had a fake gun.
"They're more and more frequent out there. We're recovering more and more of them," says Green Bay Police Lt. Jeff Brester.
The problem is, it's very difficult to tell real from fake.
Brester shows us two guns side-by-side. "One of them actually is my patrol pistol, and one of them is a BB gun that was taken off of a kid at about 12:30 in the morning."
Which is the real one? Deciding in a split second, he says, is next to impossible.
"If it looks like a real gun, and if someone doesn't obey our commands, we have to take the presumption that it is a real firearm. We can't pretend that it's not a real firearm, for our safety and the public's safety," says Brester.
And police have seen this go the other way, too. They say, even in Green Bay, they've actually seen people take real guns and modify them to look like fake guns.
"There's some where they either paint a real gun with an orange tip or they put some type of coloring on it," says Brester.
It's why, whenever officers see a gun, they have to assume it's real.
And they want parents and kids to understand that.
"It's different from 20 years ago when kids were outside playing with toy guns all the time. Society is different nowadays. Don't buy them for your kids," Brester advises. "It's... for the amount of playing they actually have with them, it's just not worth the risk of a neighbor seeing it, an officer seeing it, or the gun falling into somebody's hands that shouldn't have it and using it to commit some type of crime."