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Deputy shoots teen wielding pellet gun

Teen painted weapon to make it look real, sheriff says

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The Seminole County sheriff said his deputies thought this pellet gun was a 9 mm handgun.

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(CNN) -- A sheriff's deputy shot a 15-year-old he believed was armed with a 9 mm handgun at a Florida middle school Friday only to learn later that the weapon was a modified pellet gun, the Seminole County sheriff said.

The student is on "advanced life support" at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Sheriff Don Eslinger said, adding, "It was a terrible situation."

Eslinger said that the student, Christopher David Penley, painted the brightly colored tip of the pellet gun black to make it look like a real gun.

The sheriff's deputy was a member of the SWAT team and shot the eighth-grader only after the student raised the gun and threatened officers, Eslinger said.

The shooting occurred about 9:30 a.m. at the 1,100-student Millwee Middle School in Longwood, Florida. (Watch the aftermath of the shooting -- 1:54)

The suburban Orlando school was evacuated after the shooting.

The incident began when the teen's fellow students saw a gun in his backpack. The students were planning to tell a teacher about it, the sheriff's office said.

One of the students confronted the teen, who responded by pointing the weapon at the student and putting him in a closet, Eslinger said. The armed teen then fled, and a school resource officer and others gave chase.

Deputies were called to the scene, and the teen led them on a foot chase across campus to an isolated alcove area where police cornered him in a bathroom, the sheriff's office said.

Deputies tried to talk the teen into surrendering, but he refused to speak with them, Eslinger said.

"I'm going to kill myself or I'm going to die somehow," Eslinger quoted the boy as saying. "He refused to even comment. All he said was his first name. He did not drop the firearm."

The student eventually exited the bathroom and pointed the gun at his own head and throat. When he "raised the firearm in a tactical position and pointed it" at one of the SWAT team members, the officer "decided to use deadly force," Eslinger said.

"From what the deputies explained to me, (the teen) was suicidal," the sheriff said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators, who respond any time an officer fires a gun, determined the teen's weapon was an airsoft pellet gun, which shoot BBs or small paintballs, Eslinger said.

Authorities showed the gun alongside a real 9 mm handgun, and there appeared to be little difference between the two.

The teen's motive was not clear, but authorities were looking into some things from his past, Eslinger said without elaborating.

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