Paintball incidents under investigation

Posted By | October 4, 2005 12:00 am

Jody Sliger
Incidents involving paintball guns are being blamed for at least one motor vehicle crash and two individuals needing medical treatment for eye injuries.
Several other reports of vandalism kept officers tied up for hours Thursday evening and into the following early morning hours.
“It is really becoming a problem,” said Chief Jeff Guth, Sparta Police Department, “It is a nuisance. We are going to have to get some help from parents and everybody involved on this. We have tried to convince the young people that this is not the way to do it. There are ways to have fun, but this is not the way.
“Kids want to have a good time, and I’ve got nothing against that, but when you take a car, that can be considered a deadly weapon, and you are shooting a paintball gun out of it at another moving vehicle, and if something goes wrong and somebody swerves and hits an innocent family driving down Bockman Way, going wherever, we have a tragic situation that didn’t have to happen, one that could have been avoided.”
Guth said these incidents have been happening during high school homecoming week for several years but they are getting worse.
“Approximately three years ago, this junior-senior war started involving paint ball guns and moving vehicles,” said Guth. “And instead of going out to somebody’s field out in the country where there is plenty of room and willing participants, they have chosen to drive vehicles through town shooting at each other in moving vehicles. Some buildings get hit, whether it is intentional or collateral damage, we don’t know. However, the potential is there for something very serious to happen.”
“I know there were some laying in ambush for juniors as they drove out of the parking lot, trying to shoot them with paint ball guns. I know that there were other things done to vehicles in the parking lot on Wednesday, said Guth.
On Thursday afternoon, a motor vehicle crash occurred on Ray Broyles Road at approximately 3 p.m. According to the report, the crash occurred when four male juveniles, traveling in a green van, were shooting paintballs at the male juvenile driver of a white Nissan pickup truck. The Nissan’s driver stopped in the roadway and behind him, the driver of a Chevrolet Lumina was unable to avoid hitting the truck.
Guth continued, “It is a reckless act, and while the paint ball gun itself is not considered a dangerous weapon, when it is shot out of a moving vehicle, that is reckless endangerment. It can be a felony or a misdemeanor.”
“So far, no students have been charged,” said Guth, “You would think that if a police officer stops you and takes away your paint ball gun and your parents have to come and pick it up, that this would stop sometime but evidently the message has not gotten across.
“I think people think because it’s a paint ball gun, it’s not a big deal, if a paint ball hits something, it usually washes off and there is not any damage. The problem we run into is from time to time, some paint balls are a little harder than others and they cause a dent in a car which causes people to want to take out charges for vandalism.”
In an incident that happened in the county at approximately 9 p.m., Thursday. White County Sheriff Reserve Deputy Chris Faught and Cpl. Joey Jones were dispatched to Heritage Christian Academy in reference to vandalism. According to the report, the officers arrived on the scene where it had been reported six vehicles were in the parking lot and two were possibly stuck in a grassy area behind the school building, however, no one was there. The officers discovered numerous paint balls and eggshells on the ground.
The Christian school had been vandalized with several paintball hits. The school was hit more than 40 times by paintballs. The incident is under investigation.
City officers and medical personnel were dispatched to Sonic at approximately 9 p.m., the same night. According to Guth, an unidentified female was struck near her eye with a paintball.
“Whether she knew the person or not is unsure. Detective Allen Selby is investigating the incident. This case will be followed up on and there may be some charges come out of that,” said Guth.
“We tried to tell the students, you don’t need to be doing this, and we take the guns. And when mom and dad come to pick them up we tell them this does not need to be going on,” continued Guth, Usually the story mom and dad are given is not what is actually going on.
In addition to the damage to persons, buildings and vehicles, the cost of this is mounting.
“It takes a lot of time and extra money, Thursday night we had five officers on the street. We paid overtime for two officers to stay over because of everything happening. Business owners have to pay people to clean up their businesses and clean up their walls. It also draws officers away from other duties they need to be doing,” said Guth.
“At the very least, it is a distraction for us to have to do something like this, it is senseless. I am all for having a good time. I like having a good time and I want kids to have a good time. However, if the school is having competition between the classes, trying to decide the best class, all of it needs to be decided by the school competitions.
“This stuff on the street has got to cease,” Guth said emphatically. “If somebody needs charging, we are going to charge them. We have had several calls of kids with paintball guns around town and even if we don’t see them doing anything, we have been taking them and having their parents come pick them up. There is no reason for them to have a paintball gun in town unless they are traveling from their home to an area to shoot paintball guns. That is an area away from buildings.”
“This is something that can be prevented,” said Guth,
“I am appealing to people to use common sense and say ‘hey, this has got to stop. Innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire.”
“If this problem has to be taken care of in a court of law, then that’s what we will do.”
There are approximately 25-30 paintball guns at Sparta Police Department for parents to pick up. These guns were confiscated from juveniles by officers and will be held until a parent claims it.
“There is no reason for it.
It has gotten out of hand. We have tried to control it the best we can, but we need to try to change our thinking on this,” said Guth. “I would hate to think I go through my young life with a juvenile record for something as silly as this. They are not thinking about the consequences. They tell me, they are only shooting at each other, but the problem is they get separated and innocent people get caught in the crossfire.”

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