Control room staff were told the youths were in possession of a powerful crossbow, capable of inflicting a fatal wound, in the Dalkeith area.
The alert sparked a full-scale response as multiple units, backed-up by a firearms team armed with Glock semi-automatic pistols and Heckler & Koch G36 carbines – also favoured by the SAS – were dispatched to track the teens down.
They eventually found them on the building site in Bonnyrigg and within minutes were able to establish that the crossbow was a harmless toy.
An eyewitness said: “I was passing with my own wee lad when we saw all the police motors with their blue lights flashing. There were four cars and two vans and it was all pretty dramatic as they went into the building site.
“I could see their weapons, like machine guns. The boys all had their hands up. I think they must have been up to something but I’m not sure what it was.
“They all looked pretty shocked to see armed police. I didn’t see any officer pointing a gun at anyone. They had pistols in holsters and these other ones that look like machine guns. They are pretty frightening things to see. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be confronted by that.”
He added: “They waved the kids over and they came straight away. They were just boys, probably mucking about because the schools are off.
“The police officers were very impressive and controlled at all times because all it would have taken is for one of the boys to have done something daft and it could have ended tragically.”
A senior police insider, formerly an authorised firearms officer, said members of the specialist unit underwent exhaustive training to defuse incidents like yesterday’s and had previous experience of being confronted by people brandishing real crossbows.
He explained: “It’s a split-second decision for a firearms officer when they are faced with what could possibly be a genuine weapon. They are trained for these situations. People should not take anything that could be seen as potentially deadly out into the public.”
Inspector Helen Miller said: “Officers were called around 3.35pm on Monday, April 15, to reports of a group of teenagers with a crossbow in the Dalkeith area.
“Given the nature of the weapon described, armed officers attended the call and managed to locate the group in the Bonnyrigg area.
“Thankfully the weapon was a toy, and no further action was required.
“The call received from the member of the public was of genuine concern and as such, we have to provide a robust response to ensure the safety of the public is never compromised.”
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