Man fatally shot by police at SFO had replica guns, officials say

San Francisco DA investigators enter the airport after police shot and killed a man they say was armed. Jan. 20, 2022 

The California Attorney General’s Office took over the investigation into a fatal police shooting of an armed man at San Francisco International Airport after authorities discovered the man was wielding replica firearms, officials said Friday.

The man, who has not been identified, advanced on police with what looked like two real handguns inside the airport’s International Terminal around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, authorities said.

Multiple officers opened fire on the man near the entrance to BART, killing him.

San Francisco police spokeswoman Officer Grace Gatpandan said the man "was armed with firearms" but investigators were working to determine what kind of weapons the man had.

But it turns out the guns were Airsoft pellet guns that enthusiasts use to mimic real weapons for tactical training, officials with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office said. The guns did not have colored tips to indicate they were replicas, officials said. 

Under state law, the California Department of Justice becomes the lead investigating agency whenever police kill a person who is not armed with a "deadly weapon."

The law, passed as AB 1506, and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September 2020, defines a deadly weapon as "any loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury" along with a variety of knives and other blunt instruments. 

The San Francisco Police Department said it planned to hold a town hall meeting to reveal more details of the investigation within the next 10 days. 

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky.