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"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..."
Sgt. Al Powell, Die Hard

"Well, is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? This is your life."
Bruce Springsteen, American Skin (41 Shots)

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.

Sadly, Truth in Television. People stopped by police have been shot because they suddenly moved... to get their driver's licenses, as instructed. It's recommended that you announce what you're going to do first, then make your move slowly.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Shoot Him! He Has a Wallet! include:

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 mans hand as a gun. 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.
  • Happen 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 body guard 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.

Comic Books

  • 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.
  • 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 and 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*
  • 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.
  • In Crash, Hansen, while off duty, shoots Peter when he reaches for his statuette.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still starts off with Klaatu pulling out a strange device, his gift to the president, and getting shot by military personnel.
  • Die Hard. From the above quote.
  • Falling Down has a classic example, where D-Fens pulls a water gun on 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.
  • In the first Mr. Bean movie, 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 (suprise), and asks "How much do you want?". Hook shoots the checkbook (And kills one of his pirate mooks. Like he cares).


  • 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 his 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.
  • 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.

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 Scally 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, Scally 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On Blue Bloods Danny shoots a suspect who seems to have a gun. The guy was actually holding his police badge.
  • 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!

  • 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 vacume hose (making it out to be a gun.) Later stories are share 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.


Video Games

  • In Alpha Protocol, a 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. He's actually an undercover agent pulling out his ID badge. Shooting him gets you a game over.
  • While there was 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.

Western Animation

  • 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. 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!"


Real Life

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • There are also a number of factors that influence an officer deciding to fire, like poor visibility, the subject being deliberately uncooperative, and the presence of other officers or people in the area.
  • 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.
    • And why Megatron is usually a tank nowadays.
    • Do not rely on this pulling out dumb stunts, though. Military and police personnel are smart enough to realize it takes no effort to paint real gun's muzzle orange and it is apparently not even illegal. See here for an example of this[1].
  • There was a rather famous incident that was first shown on WikiLeaks that portrayed U.S troops attacking a defenseless 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.
    • Said cameraman had the horrible luck of being in a group of men who in turn appeared to be with some who were actually armed while in a combat zone. When it appeared that the RPG/camera was being aimed, well, a tragic mistake happened. Fairly even-handed article here.
  • "US Troops" where actually an Apache Helicopter gunning down civilians and possible hostiles from afar.And after killing everything in sight, it shredded to pieces a clearly weaponless minivan that stoped to...carry the wounded. And THEN the incoming armor, sent to secure the area passes over the bodies.This more like a case of Overkill than anything else.
  1. Along with more proof that the "journalists think all guns are AK-47s" thing is not a joke.