News - July 20, 2007
Teens open Airsoft gunfire on children
Incident puts safety, toy gun regulation into the spotlight
by Emily Atwood
Rathbone Way is not a main street with heavy traffic, so the Rhodes brothers often play basketball in the street. Combined with Huff Drive, the streets make a residential loop right near Mohr Elementary School.
Around 6:30 p.m. June 5, 13-year-old Tyler Rhodes yelled "car!" to stop game play as a red pickup truck came around the turn. His two brothers and some friends routinely cleared the street when the unfamiliar truck stopped in front of them and a passenger held a video camera out of the window. Tyler paused for a moment, trying to process the unusual scene. Then fear shot through his body as a male teen in a baseball cap and sunglasses, sitting in the rear cab, pointed what looked like a machine gun at him.
"It was the scariest moment in his life," said his mother, Robyn Rhodes. "He thought it was real. He said the guy just smiled at him."
As Tyler yelled at his brothers and friends to run into the house, several plastic pellets from an Airsoft gun flew through the air. But his brothers had already been hit: Conner, 9, in the stomach; and Justin, 11, just below the right eye.
As the truck sped off, one of the brothers chased it, knowing it would have to come out of the residential loop. He entered the license plate number in his cell phone and Robyn called 911.
"It was all chaotic," Rhodes said. "The police were out here and caught them. [The teens] all went to Amador."
According the a police report, the unnamed 17-year-old driver had picked up his friends Stanley (Ryan) Berckmoes, 18, who recorded the incident, and Nicholas Chiaradia, 18, the shooter, to film themselves skateboarding at a church.
Chiaradia told police he thought the gun was empty as he pulled the trigger, but shot three to four times and again when they drove away and saw one of the kids by himself. The other two teens said five to eight shots were fired.
While these toy guns aren't illegal in Pleasanton, shooting them violates the municipal code prohibiting the use of a firearm or projectile, unless in self defense. Guns, real or fake, or any weapon that "emits a projectile" are not allowed to be used, unless allowed in writing by the chief of police.
Chiaradia was given a notice to appear in court for violation of battery. The case was sent to the district attorney. Police did not return calls to update the status of the situation or say if the teens were to face any other punishment.
Rhodes said she hasn't been told how the teens would be punished. Since they were not on school property or on school time, the teens weren't barred from graduation ceremonies nor could they be suspended.
Surprised that this could happen in Pleasanton, Rhodes said she's concerned for other homeowners and parents in the Stoneridge neighborhood less than a mile from an elementary school. She said parents should think before allowing their children to have these toys.
"The guns can injure," she said. "I'm not trying to make more trouble; I just want people to be aware before they purchase these things for kids. I'm just hoping to have increased awareness."
Adding to the grief, Robyn also said that, besides a written apology by the shooter given to the police, she has yet to hear from the teens or their parents to check up on her children.
The whole incident was shocking, she said, especially in light of the Virginia Tech shootings. In what she suspects the teens did as a YouTube stunt for thrills, her children were traumatized.
"It's one thing to shoot at each other on private property. It's stupid," she said. "But it's another thing to go on a hunt for kids. They drove down the street and terrorized these kids for no reason."
Posted by Jason,
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Aug 22, 2007 at 1:09 am
So the mother got her two-minutes of fame, and probably 'good-neighbour' points in her area.
The kids earned their bragging rights, and probably mouthed off in their schools.
This article obviously stretches teenage mischief to an extent that make s it seem that Sports Equipment (Airsoft Guns) are lethal weapons, and the teens involved are criminals.
I am sorry but I cannot advocate the opinion portrayed in this article.
First off, being 18, I understand the complex reasoning behind the mischief or "Battery" that was commited. Simply, there is no reason other than that we are young, and we make mistakes and dumb decisions. IF ANYTHING, PARENTS and our ELDERS should be the ones that have a deeper understanding of a teen life rather than us. With age comes wisdom.
- Because this "Battery" was an inappropriate choice of the teenagers involved, a REASONABLE and inexpensive punishment should be dealt. The shame of having their names and personas cruelly and inaccurately displayed in an article (ON THE NET) is overkill.
- In my opinion, and taking from experience, a choice like this will never be made again. Let alone, it would never cross their minds either.
Now lets look at the shooting itself, from a scientific perspective. As well as count in any OTHER possible risks.
- Consider this: Lets say you are one of those teens, and of course you have their 'cruel' persona as well. You are in the shooting vehicle, as you approach your victims, would you want ur only means of escape to stop? or rather, maintain a moderate speed? Personally i would like a momentum going in order for a quick and easy escape.(Is it me? Or does the article say the truck stopped? Or maybe it was tweaked to appeal to a certain demographic of pleasanton citizens?)
- Now a question: What was one thing we were taught as children about strangers?
Answer: Don't talk to them or go near their cars.
(Just a little thing on my mind.)
- Sticking to my original theory of how the shooting truck was moving but at a slow place; mull over this:
(But first some background info: Airsoft pellets are relatively small in size and made out of some plastic polymer. The only areas where it could do near-severe/severe damage are the eyes [small target] and eardrums [near-impossible target]. Any where else of impact, there could be a possible abrasion, small welt or light bruise.)
The shooter was aiming a PIECE OF SPORT EQUIPMENT, not a "Firearm". His center of balance is constantly moving, along with his shooting plane, and if his shooting plane is moving, that means the targets he is aiming at, standing still or not, must be moving too. His projectiles, are miniscule in size and thus affected GREATLY by wind-change. Now weighing in all these factors, against the chance of hitting an incredibly small target which could cause severe damage to the victim; chances are, hitting that target will be increasingly difficult (with every shot, considering recoil also.)
Not to be mean, but those kids got it easy, they would have received the same bruises/abrasions if they were to play a game of airsoft. There is probably a higher chance of them getting hurt worse doing whatever they were doing or playing a sport at school.
Also just to throw it out there, If the argument is poised: "Those children witnessed a traumatic event". Citizens of pleasanton, no they haven't.
Actually it has already started, and you don't even know it. The source: school.
During lunch breaks and recreation time, bullying,teasing, etc. is something all kids are familiar with in school. And it increases in high-school. But thats all besides the point.
In a nutshell, I am just trying to say that mother of the kids overreacted, as well the city. The kids, well, they just wanted to be in a newspaper and try to fight us 'big-kids' back. The teenagers, they learned their lesson. And this article, just another way the media tries to affect you.