Friday, March 31, 2006

Man arrested after alleged threat with airsoft rifle

KAHULUI – A homeless man was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly pointed what appeared to be a handgun at another man, police said.

Officers responding to the 2:38 p.m. call found an airsoft gun when they arrested 37-year-old Christopher Flanagan, said Lt. Glenn Cuomo of the Criminal Investigation Division.

He said the gun, which is not a firearm, shoots plastic pellets.

Police were called after a 40-year-old Kahului man reported seeing a man walk by with what appeared to be a handgun near Vevau and School streets in Kahului, Cuomo said. The Kahului man confronted the other man, Cuomo said, and the man allegedly pointed the gun at the victim before walking toward Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.

Officers arrested Flanagan after finding him on the staircase of the shopping center parking garage near Sears, Cuomo said.

Flanagan was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening. He was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail Wednesday at the Wailuku police station.

(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Young man pleads guilty to accidentally shooting friend with airsoft

OLYMPIA — A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty this morning to third-degree assault for an accidentally shooting his friend in the head.
The defendant, Danial R. Coots, faces one to three months in jail.

His plea before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham possibly saved him from serving an 18-month prison term.

On Feb. 8, 2005, Coots, his friend, David Nelson, 18, were drinking alcohol about 1:30 a.m. with another friend’s sister, Brittany Wright, then 17, in the girl’s bedroom. The girl showed Coots a 9 mm handgun that her parents had given her for protection. While handling it, he accidentally shot Nelson in the head.

Nelson survived but has lingering medical problems that have changed his life, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said.

The case was reviewed several times before charges were filed. If it had gone to trial, a jury would have been asked to decide if Coots was guilty of assault by criminal negligence because he was drinking and carelessly handling the weapon.

“There needs to be some accountability for this event. It’s hard for me under these circumstances to have a young man shot in the head, have his life changed forever, and not have any accountability for that at all,” Tunheim said.

Wright didn’t pull out the gun until after Coots noticed pellets from an Airsoft gun on her floor. He asked if she owned an Airsoft pellet gun and she replied, “Would you like to see my baby?” She then pulled out the gun from under her bed.

Coots thought it was merely a pellet gun, said Jim Dixon, his attorney.

He pulled back the action, which ejected a round that Coots did not see. When the action slid back, Coots’ finger was on the trigger.

Dixon would have argued that the shooting was an accident, and not a crime.

“The stakes were just too high for Danial,” he said, referring to the potential prison sentence for Coots if the case had gone to trial.

Both Coots and Nelson work for Olympic Arms, Inc., a firearms company in Thurston County.

All three teens were traumatized by the accident, attorneys said.

Wright, the girl, was charged in juvenile court with third-degree assault, where she pleaded guilty under an agreement that the charge would be dropped in a year as long as she testified, attended alcohol and drug counseling, and performed 40 hours of community service, court documents say.

Her parents and older brother were asleep when the shooting happened.

His sentencing hearing is set for May 2.
(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Former student charged with assault

A young man who fired a pellet gun in a Sardis secondary classroom last week is
facing several weapons-related


School district officials said the school's crisis management team is working through a threat assessment process this week in the aftermath of the assaults, as the suspect awaits his second court appearance.
The suspect is a former student who'd been "unsuccessful" in his studies and was dropping off some books at the school. It was during the lunch hour on March 22, that he allegedly pulled out and discharged the replica pistol five times, hitting three students with plastic pellets causing minor injuries.
RCMP arrested the 18-year-old man near the school a short time later, after several units converged on the Stevenson Road site, including dogs services and major crime section officers.
This week the school's crisis management team is working through a threat assessment process, says assistant superintendent Bob Patterson.
"It's a follow-up process we go through after the fact, and it's part of the training the school district has undertaken to deal with situations considered threatening," Patterson says.
"It's something we've been working on this year and it's a type of formal training for district personnel so they'll know how to read situations and read the signs of threatening situations, before they happen."
District and school staff as well as RCMP are involved in the threat assessment work.
"So it's a community response," Patterson adds. He also had high praise for the school's cool-headed reaction to a potentially red-hot situation.
"I want to commend staff and students at Sardis secondary for how they conducted themselves," he said.
Asked what motive the former student could have had for discharging the airsoft pistol in a classroom, the district official said, "I can't say anything at this point."
Sardis secondary principal Bob Long could not provide any details about the former student or what his motives may have been.
School staff has been walking through everything they did during the situation.
"We've been talking about how we might do things better or differently," he said.
The crisis team will meet more last time next week, he added.
Delton David Knox, 18, appeared in Chilliwack Provincial court Thursday and is charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, carrying a concealed weapon, and five counts of assault with a weapon. He's scheduled for a second court appearance March 29.
For Full Article Please Refer to Link

School board expels four for airsoft guns

The Janesville School Board expelled four students Tuesday. The students and the charges against them were:

-- A high school student, possessing dangerous weapons on school grounds. The student possessed two Airsoft handguns, which shoot plastic BBs, said Karen Schulte, director of student services. Schulte said the student pointed a gun at someone. She said the gun looks very similar to a firearm and would likely prompt a police officer to draw his own weapon.

This student was expelled for the rest of this school year but may attend summer school.

-- A high school student, fighting on school grounds. The student is expelled through the end of the 2006-07 school year.

He or she may apply for early reinstatement starting in the second semester of 2006-07 after undergoing an anger assessment and treatment.

-- A high school student, fighting on school grounds. The student is expelled through the end of the first semester of the 2007-08 school year.

He or she may apply for early reinstatement starting in the second semester of 2006-07 after satisfying conditions that include an anger assessment and treatment.

-- A middle school student, possessing a marijuana pipe on school grounds and repeated refusal or neglect to follow school rules. The student is expelled through the end of the 2006-07 school year.

He or she may apply to return earlier, starting in the first semester of 2006-07, after completing anger and drug assessments and treatment.

This brings to 34 the number of expulsions this school year, compared with 20 at this time last year.
(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Teen guilty of assault in accidental shooting

OLYMPIA — A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree assault for accidentally shooting a friend.

The defendant, Danial R. Coots of Olympia, faces one to three months in jail. But his plea before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham saved him from the possibility of serving a 21-month prison term.

On Feb. 8, 2005, Coots and a friend, David Nelson, then 19, were drinking alcohol with another friend’s sister, then 16. They went into the girl’s bedroom so she could get cigarettes, and she showed them a 9 mm handgun that her parents had given her for protection. While handling it, Coots accidentally shot Nelson in the head. It was about 1:30 a.m.

Nelson survived but has lingering medical problems. The bullet shattered his skull, severed his jaw and damaged his facial nerves.

He lost hearing in one ear and can’t close one eye or smile normally, said his mother, Donna Roush of Tenino.

He also developed psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

“We don’t know where it’s going to lead with problems down the road. A little time has passed, and the little problems have started rearing
their heads,” she said.

The case also traumatized the other two teens and their families. Their parents questioned whether justice was served by filing charges against Coots and the girl — neither of whom had criminal records — for what they perceived as a horrible accident.

The girl was charged with third-degree assault in juvenile court for giving the weapon to Coots. She pleaded guilty in February under an agreement that the charge would be dropped in a year as long as she testified, attended alcohol and drug counseling, and performed 40 hours of community service, court documents say. The Olympian is not naming the girl because she is a minor.

Coots’ case was reviewed several times before charges were filed. If it had gone to trial, a jury would have been asked to decide whether Coots was guilty of assault by criminal negligence because he was drinking and carelessly handling the weapon.

“There needs to be some accountability for this event. It’s hard for me under these circumstances to have a young man shot in the head, have his life changed forever, and not have any accountability for that at all,” Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said.

He said he hopes it will deter others from careless gun-­handling.
Coots’ sentencing is set for May 2.

The girl pulled out the gun after Coots noticed pellets from an Airsoft gun in her room. He asked whether she owned an Airsoft pellet gun, and she replied, “Would you like to see my baby?” She then pulled out the gun from under her bed, attorneys said.

Coots thought it was a pellet gun, said Jim Dixon, his attorney.

He pulled back the action, which ejected a round that he did not see. When the action slid back, Coots’ finger was on the trigger while they were looking at it.

Both Coots and Nelson worked for Olympic Arms Inc., a firearms company in Thurston County.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed a firearms enhancement, which would have added 18 months to the sentence.

“The stakes were just too high for Danial,” Dixon said of his client’s decision to plead guilty. “He is completely broken up about it.”

Coots’ father, Don, said police gave him the impression that they thought the case looked like an accident with no criminal violations.

As a former state prison employee, he said, he can’t understand how his son might have faced a prison term as long as some inmates do for more serious crimes.

“These kids have the rest of their lives,” he said.

The girl’s mother, Tina Wright, said one of the boys brought the alcohol into their garage, where the boys were drinking. She said they were supposed to have gone to sleep but instead went into her daughter’s room for a few minutes.

She said her daughter was given the gun because someone had stolen one family car and broken into the family garage. She was taught how to handle it. “This was a horrible, horrible tragedy, and the bottom line is, we feel so thankful that David is alive,” she said.

But she said her family didn’t feel it would be able to fight the criminal charges because of her daughter’s emotional state over the incident.

“I really don’t want to shift the blame, because we want to own up to our share of it. But I’m just amazed at how much these kids are going through,” she said. “It just feels to me like she and Danial were really being bullied.”

The victim’s mother said she thinks the defendants should serve jail time and be required to take gun safety classes and drug and alcohol counseling. She said she doesn’t understand why the gun wasn’t stored in a safer location or better supervised.

“The things they took from us we can never take back,” she said.

(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fake airsoft gun scare at Sardis Secondary

A former student who was returning some books Wednesday at Sardis secondary school took out a toy pistol and shot three students in a classroom.
An 18-year-old Chilliwack man was taken into custody by police near the school after officers converged on the Stevenson Road site.
"Due to the seriousness of the complaint, all available officers were sent to the scene, as well as members of the Police Dog Services and Major Crimes Unit, in an effort to ensure the safety of the students and the public," says Const. Bert Paquet. "The quick response by the members achieved that goal."
School-based crisis management team was called into action and support services are in place at the school. No one was seriously injured in the assault, but three victims sustained minor red marks where the plastic pellets of the 'airsoft' pistol hit them, according to reports.
"We're confident it wasn't directed at the school itself," says assistant superintendent Bob Patterson about the acts of aggression. "At these times, our number one priority is to maintain a very safe environment for our students."
The school district "always errs on the side of caution" and RCMP were called in to deal with the situation, he says.
The Sardis secondary principal informed the student body of the basic facts of the shooting to avoid any misinformation going out, Patterson adds.
The school's crisis management team has been debriefing and meeting with district staff on an ongoing basis.
The young man who pulled out and discharged the replica pistol, "was not successful as a student and came back to turn in his books," according to the school district official. "That's the reason he was at Sardis secondary that day."
But the actual shooting incident was unrelated to those academic circumstances, Patterson says.
What's worrisome but necessary for administrators is contemplating worst-case scenarios, he says.
"When you sit down as a school principal you have to ask, 'What would have happened if the weapon was the real McCoy?' says the official.
"So we've walked through that scenario. Those are the worst-case scenarios and you're always looking and considering what the processes would be, where is there room for improvement, and most importantly how do we best to maintain a safe environment for the kids."
RCMP would also like to remind the public that "toy pistols" or other replicas and imitations of actual handguns "become a serious threat to the safety of our community when they are carried, transported or used in public," adds Const. Paquet.
In Canada, according to, for a gun to be classified as a firearm, the velocity must be high enough for a fired projectile to penetrate the eye of a pig. Using this test, Airsoft guns that fire under 407 ft/s (124 m/s) are not currently classified as firearms. However when an airsoft weapon is used to commit a crime it is treated as if it were a real gun.
The suspect was being held in custody at the Chilliwack detachment pending his first court appearance which was scheduled for Thursday. At press time the charges against the suspect, if any, were not known.
(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Police say airsoft BB shooter targeted boy at random

The man jailed for allegedly shooting a 12-year-old Mechanicsburg Middle School student in the head with a BB gun last month apparently singled the boy out at random, Upper Allen Township police say.

Calling it a “crime of opportunity,” Lt. M.S. McLaughlin says Tyler Bailey, 20, of the 100 block of West Main Street, Mechanicsburg, shot the child with an “airsoft automatic BB gun” before fleeing the scene Feb. 23. The child was just getting out of school for the afternoon and was “not seriously injured,” McLaughlin says, but was still on the school’s 1750 S. Market St. property. The child was hit in the face with multiple objects, police say in arrest papers.

During an investigation, police say they determined Bailey was a passenger in a red Honda Civic that, after picking up another middle school student, shot at the victim from a close range.

At least one similar incident was reported in a bordering municipality, police say.

After the shooting, Bailey and the car’s other occupants fled to the first block of Bradford Court, police say.

It was here that Bailey allegedly stole $90.95 worth of frozen food from a Schwann Food Co. truck.

Mother called police

The shooting victim’s mother reported the incident to police that evening, police say.

At Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, all charges against Bailey were forwarded to Cumberland County Court including possession of a weapon on school property, simple assault, reckless endangerment, harassment and theft.

Of the five charges, the weapon possession is the most serious one, which carries a statutory maximum jail time of two-and-a-half to five years.

He was arrested following an investigation and, as of Wednesday, remained in Cumberland County Prison without bail, officials there say. A full written confession was obtained, police say.
(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The real problem with fake guns

The graveyard shift at the Walden Hess station ended at 7 a.m. for Viktor Gridin, and it ended with an empty cash register.

With only 36 minutes left in the shift, two men in black hooded sweatshirts walked in. They went to the newspaper rack. Gridin, the cashier, rubbed his chin, then put his hands in his pockets. The two walked up to the counter.

The guy on the right put a newspaper on the counter.

The guy on the left pulled out a black pistol and pointed it at Gridin's face.

Gridin emptied the drawer, slot by slot. He handed over the cash. The pistol went back in the pocket. The two walked out 40 seconds later with $294 in cash and a newspaper.

Another look at the video, and the gun looks real. Feels real in the hands of the officers who arrested the robbers. Cocks like a real gun. Heavy, too.

Gridin emptied the till like it was real.

But the pistol is a replica - a BB gun made to look like the real thing.

Imitation guns are easy to get, convincing in a stick-up, and possibly deadly for someone willing to commit a crime with a fake.

As a detective in Newburgh put it: "It can get you killed in a hurry."

John Peel and William Keator, the two men later arrested for the Hess robbery, both face felony second-degree robbery charges. Peel, who swapped his black-hooded sweatshirt for a blue Orange County Jail jumpsuit, says he was drunk at the time of the robbery.

As he says now: "Judgment seriously impaired."

Jaswinder Singh, 20, a driver for Syndicate Taxi in Middletown, was sure the gun a would-be robber put to the back of his head was fake.

"He said 'I'll blow your head off,'" Sing recalls of the attempted robbery in January. Then the robber smacked him on the head with it.

"I said 'Go ahead,' because I felt it was plastic. If it is a real gun, it's heavy. It would hurt."

State police believe the same people tried to rob other drivers two weeks later. When three teens were arrested for the attempted robberies, only a fake plastic gun was recovered.

The Town of Wallkill Police Department gets a couple of guns like this a month, almost all with the orange tip snapped off or colored over. City of Newburgh police says they get between five and 10 a week.

"When you're confronted, you don't see that," Wallkill Officer Anthony Kuhn says about the barrels. "Ask someone who's been robbed, and they'll tell you it was this big."

He holds up his hands in a circle the size of a cannon ball.

And what if somebody pulled one on a cop?

"One of our biggest concerns," Wallkill Chief Robert Hertman says, "is if somebody pointed one of these at a police officer, there would be no way to differentiate between one of these and a real weapon."

Last October, a village of Chester cop almost pulled his weapon on a 15-year-old boy with a pellet gun. In January, a sergeant for the Department of Veterans Affairs almost shot a Warwick High School student who pointed a BB gun at a girl.

Four days later, a sheriff's deputy in the state of Florida shot 15-year-old Christopher Penley in the head, killing him. Penley had pointed a plastic pellet gun at the deputy.

The orange tip had been painted black.

Walk into the Middletown Flea Market on Dolson Avenue any weekend, and you can find cheap made-in-China airsoft guns. Similar to BB guns, airsoft guns are imitation firearms that shoot plastic beads that could barely break the skin. Playing with airsoft guns is similar to playing with paintball guns; the point is to shoot your playmates. Show an ID that says you're at least 16, fork over as little as $6, and take one home. It's simple to paint over or just snap off the orange tip. On some plastic guns here, the tips are already black. These aren't like the metal BB gun that John Peel used in the robbery, but local police departments have recovered a fair number of these plastic look-alikes.

"You'd have to be crazy to rob someone with a pellet gun," says a vendor selling orange-tipped airsoft guns who declines to give his name. "But there are a lot of crazy people around."

Kids and adults stop by to see the guns, nestled in white Styrofoam molds, everything from little handguns to assault rifles. A mother comments on how real they look.

The imitation guns for sale here are "a matter of concern," says Christine Pritchard, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. New York state law, since 1989, has prohibited the sale of real-looking imitation guns without an orange stripe that runs the entire length of the barrel.

"Realistic toy guns put in jeopardy the lives of New Yorkers, especially children and law enforcement personnel," says Pritchard. "It's a matter we take quite seriously and would want to look into."

Possession and sale of imitation guns is legal everywhere in New York state except New York City and, recently, Rockland County. The county passed a law in January that makes the sale or possession of an imitation gun a civil penalty.

"If it stops one person from using a non-firearm, it's a plus," says Lt. Anthony Costa of the Rockland County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff's department supported the legislation, says Costa, an NRA member. But its limits are clear to him.

"Is it a complete answer? I'd have to tell you 'No.'"

There is a belief among some that the criminal charges would be significantly less for using a fake gun in a robbery. It's not a real gun so it's no big deal, right?

That is mostly fiction.

First-degree robbery can be reduced to second-degree robbery if it's proven a fake gun was used. It still "appears" to be a real gun. Still a felony. Still punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police found an imitation gun last November when they arrested Matthew Pickett, the 19-year-old accused of six armed robberies in the Middletown area.

It's black plastic with a fake-wood handle; the orange tip is snapped off. Michael Brownstein, Middletown police ID officer, calls it "junky."

But it worked.

Brownstein has a BB gun that cops took off a guy during a traffic stop. It's black, heavy, cocks like a real pistol. It's a Walther replica, the same type Peel pointed at Viktor Gridin's face when he robbed the Hess gas station that morning in Walden.

"If they pulled this out on us - on a cop," he says, "they would be shot."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fake guns causing concern

They shoot plastic pellets and have orange or red tips. But the plastic and metal airsoft guns popular among teens, tweens and adults who play military games can still be a threat -- to the owners.
The fake weapons are replicas of semiautomatics, sniper rifles, pistols and handguns. Police officers use them to train, but other people use them to play.
Sometimes playing can turn deadly. If people carrying a concealed weapon or a police officer sees the fake weapon and senses danger, they can legally shoot, officials said.
"It's a tragedy waiting to happen," said Grapevine Sgt. Bob Murphy.
Within a 13-day-period last month, officers in North Richland Hills had four incidents in which they aimed guns at teenage boys who appeared to be wielding a deadly weapon.
In one, police got a 911 call reporting that someone was walking around a neighborhood with a shotgun. Officers found a 14-year-old walking up his driveway with a gun. The patrol officer pulled out his weapon, trained it on the teen and asked him to drop the firearm. The teen absent-mindedly turned around -- with the toy pointed at the officer -- before dropping it to the ground, police Lt. Russ Juren said.
Another time, drivers reported seeing a teen pointing a gun at their cars. When officers spotted him, the 16-year-old started to run, then turned around with the gun pointed toward an officer. Fortunately, the officer was close enough to knock the weapon out of his hand. It was an airsoft gun.
In all of the North Richland Hills cases, the red or orange barrel tip that distinguishes airsoft guns had been painted over, covered in black electrical tape or snapped off, Juren said.
"They don't understand the seriousness of what they're doing," he said. "It's frightening, and the officers certainly would not want to be put in the position to take someone's life over a toy gun."
That's what happened in Seminole County, Fla. Christopher Penley, 15, went to school Jan. 13 with an airsoft gun in his backpack and told friends he wanted to die. Students who saw the gun, whose tip had been painted black, reported it. When officers arrived, Penley barricaded himself in the middle school bathroom. The teen walked out with the gun pointed at an officer. The gun looked real, and the officer fired. Penley died two days later.
"When they're in that situation, they have to err on the side of caution," said Kim Cannaday, a spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. "A conscious decision was made by Penley to alter that gun and to make it look real."
Airsoft guns originated in Japan in the 1970s and have recently become popular in the United States. With air-driven plastic pellets, the guns are less dangerous than most paintball guns, retailers say.
The guns' appeal is their realistic look, said Brad Morris, owner of an airsoft arms store based in Milford, Ohio. Morris sells more than 100 types of airsoft guns -- which can cost between $20 to $1,500 -- online to law enforcement and customers across the United States, including many in the Dallas and Fort Worth area.
The guns come with a warning and are supposed to be purchased by adults 18 and older. But they are readily available at most sporting good stores, Wal-Marts and gun stores. Underage teens often purchase them with a parent or from less-than-vigilant stores, Morris said.
At Cheaper Than Dirt, a Fort Worth discount-ammunition store, most airsoft customers are teens and tweens who bring their parents to make the purchase, cashier Angel McClendon said.
"Just about every type of gun comes in a replica," Morris said. "It's really a fun and safe sport and we don't want to see anyone get hurt. But if you point something that looks like a real gun at an officer, they'll use deadly force."
Officers have only seconds to decide whether a weapon is real or fake, and the distinction is getting harder and harder. Some companies have started offering colored protective coatings for real guns. Wisconsin-based Lauer Custom Weaponry offers customized weapons in "electric colors" such as rose, cherry, sunburst and lavender -- bright colors typical of a toy. The weapons are intended for sport shooters who want to make a statement on the range and coordinate their outfits with their guns, owner Steven Lauer said.
"It's a bad idea for a whole bevy of reasons," Juren of North Richland Hills said. "It makes it even harder to determine what's real and what's not."
(For full article please refer to link)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Police arrest 3 men following crime spree with Airsoft Guns

Ann Arbor Police arrested three men accused of a daylong crime spree that included an assault, car theft and armed robbery in the city early Saturday.

Police also are investigating whether the men could be responsible for other recent crimes, Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey said.

The men - ages 22, 22 and 20 - and all known to police - were involved in a fight at the North Main Party Store on Friday evening, Detective Chris Fitzpatrick said. They also were linked to a stolen vehicle report, he said.

The three men took a Yellow Cab from the area of the downtown library to a bank parking lot near the intersection of Green and Plymouth roads around 3 a.m. Saturday, Fitzpatrick said. Two of the men got out of the cab, when the front-seat passenger puled a handgun on the driver and said he wasn't going to pay the fare, reports said.

The 37-year-old driver said he agreed that the man could leave without paying the $10.25 fare, but when he got out of the cab, the driver called police and began following them, reports said.

The three men went behind a nearby hotel, hid the gun, and entered another hotel, Fitzpatrick said. Officers surrounded the hotel and arrested the men after a short foot chase, Fitzpatrick said.

Police recovered the weapon, an airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellets. Two of the men were lodged at the county jail on armed robbery charges, and the third was released pending further investigation, Fitzpatrick said.
(For Full Article please refer to link)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Gun replicas draw criticism from police

A neighbor called police, saying she saw a group of young men playing with guns in the front yard of their home.

Round Rock police officers, assuming the men were armed and dangerous, showed up with their guns drawn, ordering the men to come out one by one.

As the men complied, officers — their weapons still drawn — learned that the guns were replicas.

At least 10 times this year, Round Rock police officers have been poised to shoot when confronted by suspects whose toy guns appear all too realistic, said Eric Poteet, a spokesman for the department.

It's a growing problem, Poteet said, with the increased popularity of airsoft guns: replicas that shoot plastic or rubber BBs at a low velocity.

Manufacturers include red or orange tips on the airsoft guns' barrels, but many people choose to paint over the marking to make the gun more realistic, he said.

That makes it difficult for officers, who have to make split-second decisions, to determine whether the gun a suspect holds is really a threat, Poteet said.

"Obviously, there's a relief when it's not a real gun, but there's also the frustration that you came real close to hurting somebody who had a toy," said Ben Hall, a Round Rock patrol sergeant, who has responded to calls only to find that the reported gun is not real.

In one instance, an officer who responded to a noise complaint nearly pulled the trigger after being confronted by a man with a replica Beretta handgun, Hall said. The officer was beginning to apply pressure to the trigger when the man dropped the toy weapon. No one was hurt.

"That officer believed it was a real gun because, from a distance of a foot or two, it looked like a real gun," Hall said.

Airsoft guns, originally developed in Japan because people couldn't possess real firearms there, can be made of plastic or metal and can cost as little as $20 or more than $800, said Sam Paxman of Advanced Armament the Cutting Edge in Round Rock.

They come in dozens of models, all based on real guns, and fire BBs made of rubber or plastic that can dent soda cans or punch holes through paper.

Paxman said he sells two or three airsoft guns a week. Replicas of the M-16, a rifle used in the military, are particularly popular, he said.

But the airsoft guns, which shoot with less force than paintball or pellet guns, don't pose a threat to people wearing protective gear such as eye goggles, Paxman said.

"There's a lot of people who play with them, who collect them and shoot them," Paxman said. "There's a lot of people who go out and have battles with them."

Though some airsoft guns do look very realistic, someone familiar with firearms should be able to tell it's a replica, he said.

The problem arises, police say, when people carry the guns in public, leaving them on the seat of a car or walk into a convenience store with the airsoft gun tucked into their pants.

Bystanders don't know that the replicas won't cause harm. And police have to assume that any firearm is real and make a quick decision, Poteet said.

"No officer wants to shoot somebody," Poteet said. "And to shoot somebody and to find out later that it was a toy that they had, that officer is going to have live with that forever."

(For Full Article, please refer to link)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Prison awaits 3 students Teens plead guilty in deal for robbing bank with airsoft guns; they will be sentenced after school year

Three high school students will be able to finish out their school year before being sentenced to prison for robbing an Ann Arbor bank, under a plea agreement entered Monday.

The students for the first time publicly admitted using a plastic pellet gun to rob the bank last summer. Authorities said the three immediately began spending the $19,000 on expensive jewelry, clothing and stereo equipment.

Charles Heath, Brian Jackson, and Brian White will be sentenced June 9 to 31/2 to 6 years in prison under an agreement with the court.

The three teens, all age 17 at the time of the robbery, were charged by prosecutors with one count of bank robbery, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit bank robbery. Under state criminal law, 17-year-olds are treated as adults.

Prosecutors dropped the bank robbery charges, punishable by up to life in prison, in exchange for the teens' guilty pleas on the other charges.

Heath, who turned 18 last month, and White were to start their senior years at Pioneer High School the week after the robbery. Jackson is a former Pioneer student who lives in the Flint area.

During their court appearance Monday, the teens stood together in suits with their attorneys and jointly entered their pleas as parents and other supporters filled the first two rows of the courtroom. Each told Circuit Judge Melinda Morris about their roles in the Aug. 22 heist at the KeyBank at 2207 W. Stadium Blvd.

"We decided we were going to go into the bank and use an airsoft pistol to rob it,'' Heath told Morris. He described how he and Jackson entered the branch after 4 p.m. and demanded $50,000 from the tellers.

White said he helped the others plan the robbery and provided the getaway vehicle for a cut of the money.

The robbers left with $19,000, which police said the teens began to spend immediately.

The teens are free on bond pending sentencing, which officials said was intentionally set for after the school year.

White is currently enrolled as a senior at Pioneer, school district officials said.

Heath is taking some classes at the Ann Arbor Public Schools' Roberto Clemente Student Development Center in Pittsfield Township and is being homeschooled, said his attorney, Joe Simon.

Jackson is residing in the Flint area and attends schools regularly there, said his attorney, Mike Vincent.

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