Authorities are considering filing charges against a 20-year-old Berkeley man alleged to have altered a BB gun and fired hundreds of pellets at people on Telegraph Avenue in May.
The man’s name has not been released, and no charges appear to have yet been filed against him, said Officer Stephanie Polizziani, a Berkeley Police spokeswoman, on Thursday.
According to authorities, police received a call May 10 shortly after 11 a.m. that several people had been hit by a BB or pellet gun in the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue, just south of the UC Berkeley campus.
According to scanner audio recordings, the caller said someone was using a pellet gun to shoot people who were walking into the Bear Basics clothing shop, at 2350 Telegraph.
Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said officers found “a large number” of plastic BBs on the sidewalk when they arrived.
After speaking with several witnesses, police found the man in a nearby residential building who was believed to have been responsible for shooting out his window.
Police said the man had several Airsoft BB guns, which were seized as evidence. According to Coats, the safety tip on one of the guns had been altered — to make it look like a real firearm — which is illegal.
Police spoke with three victims who had been hit, but none of them wanted to seek prosecution, said Coats.
According to Berkeley resident and Berkeleyside contributor Ted Friedman, victims shot with BBs included merchants on Telegraph Avenue, and shootings took place over two subsequent weekends.
“We didn’t even know what was happening,” a vendor told Friedman, about the first weekend. “All we knew was that hundreds of BBs buzzed us. We didn’t call police because we didn’t even know where the shots were coming from.”
Another vendor told Friedman he wasn’t interested in pursuing a case: “We didn’t want to ruin some guy’s life.”
The vendors picked up hundreds of BB pellets from Telegraph Avenue. One told Friedman he planned to use them in plastic sculptures inspired by fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons.
It was during the second weekend, on May 10 — when a stroller was hit by the shooter — that the vendors decided to take action and call police. A T-shirt vendor was able to zero in on the third-floor window where the shots were coming from. Friedman identified the building as the Hotel Carlton, which he described as a “mostly student hotel.”
Friedman said police brought the man outside in a “spit mask” — designed to protect officers from saliva — and confiscated “two assault-style BB rifles and a bag bulging with 1,500 BBs. Cops displayed the cache to vendors, one of whom — a Vietnam veteran machine-gunner — told me the assault-style BB rifle seemed real. Another vendor said the rifle’s electronics had been altered to turn the weapon into a machine-gun.”
Berkeley Police forwarded the case to the Alameda County district attorney’s office for charging consideration, Coats said, in connection with the alteration of the BB gun, a misdemeanor, and willfully discharging a BB device in a grossly negligent manner.
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