Adults shoot kids with paintball gun
A battery of storms swept through the eastern US on Sunday. Consequently, school was canceled at North Franklin on Veteran’s Day Monday—the school had no electricity. So our kids were home. Jessie’s friend Brittany arrived around 7:40 AM to let us know that school was canceled. By 8:00 Jessie and Brittany left for Brittany’s.
I spent most of the morning working on my website. The boys were downstairs playing video games until around 10:00 AM. Then they went outside to play football.
At 11:30 Chris came into the house screaming. This is a normal occurrence… I didn’t look from my computer when Chris came to my desk, crying about getting hurt. Through his hyper-ventilating he said, "I got hit in the face by a ball.”
I paused (without turning my head) and said, "Go downstairs and stop crying. Be careful when you play.” Chris tends to cry a lot; boys get hurt when they play.
Chris went downstairs. By now Ethan came inside, accompanied by neighbor kids Josh, Kristopher and Jacob.
At around 11:45 Chris was still crying. He came up the stairs to tell me that the other kids were making fun of him. Deciding that I should scold Chris for being a cry-baby and the other kids for being insensitive, I met Chris on the steps.
"Chris, quit being a—oh my God. What happened to you Chris?” I was immediately alarmed to see his top lip swollen profusely.
"I got hit by a paintball, Shawn.”
I was amazed that Chris hadn’t said this before; I was sorry I hadn’t taken the time to look at him when he first came to me.
"Who did this?” I asked.
"The guys in the window,” he said.
"Did you see him?” I asked.
"Do you know which window he was in?”
I had him lead me to where he was shot. He had been playing with the other boys in the grassy area along the side of our apartment. The shot had come from a window in the third apartment just south of our home.
Chris was very sure of that apartment. He said, "I saw the gun. But I couldn’t see the paintball when it hit me.”
He said that there were two guys in the window. I asked if they were kids that had shot him. Chris shook his head. "No,” he said, "they were grown-ups.”
At this point I was extremely alarmed. I was upset that the other kids hadn’t come running up the stairs with Chris when he first came into the house. They had all been playing together outside.
I asked Chris again if he was sure that the third apartment was the origin of the shot. He confidently pointed at the window.
I brought Chris home and said to the boys, "OK… did any of you guys see who shot Christian?”
Immediately I received a barrage of responses that shocked me. Yes, yes, they all said they saw it happen… with the exception of Ethan. Kristopher said he had also been shot… in the knee. His younger brother Josh had been shot in the stomach. Jacob was also shot… the stain of a broken paintball lurking on his pant leg near his ankle.
Jacob said, "I got shot yesterday too.”
"What?” I asked, now more alarmed than ever. "What happened yesterday?”
Jacob said, "I got shot in my buttocks.”
By now Jessica and Brittany were here. Jessie and Brittany said the gunman had also shot at them as they walked by. They said a guy had shot at them and growled, as if to frighten them.
Now I was utterly amazed. I was angry at the gunman; I was nearly as angry with the kids for not mentioning any of these events to me.
I had Brittany and Jessica lead me to the window from which they were nearly shot. They pointed to the same window that Chris had pointed at. I came back to the house and asked Jacob and Kristopher to show me the window from which they were shot. It was also the same.
Immediately I went around to the front and pounded on the door or 237 Fremont Court. No one answered. I pounded again, waiting. No response.
I went home and called Jenny, the rental office, then the police. Then I interviewed the children. These are the facts I gathered:
Sunday, November 10
Jessie, Josh, Jacob and Brittany were together playing behind 237 Fremont Court. Jacob was hit by a paintball in his rear. Kristopher heard Jake cry. All kids saw a male adult in the window.
Monday, November 11
Jacob, Christian, Josh and Kristopher were each shot by someone in 237 Fremont Court. Josh and Christian saw the weapon. Christian, Jacob and Kristopher saw a female. All saw a male with brown hair in the window, and some saw a male with lighter hair. They heard the female saying the word "shoot" before some shots; the kids heard her laughing after some of the shots. The final shot was at Christian at approximately 11:30 AM.
Before the boys were shot, someone in 237 shot at Jessica and Brittany. Neither girl was hit.
After Chris had been shot the occupants in 237 left the premises. They were gone by the time I went to that door at approximately 12:00 PM.
I had the kids round up almost twenty paintballs before Jenny arrived home, which was around 12:15 PM. The cops arrived sometime after 1:00 PM. A cruiser entered our court that was searching for a suspect of an unrelated crime before our Columbus police officer arrived in Patrol Car 102. The officer took a report; another cruiser arrived. One officer pounded on 237. No one answered.
Jacob’s mother Charity and Kristopher’s father were present when we filed the report.
After the officer took our report and left, he soon returned with the names of the residents living in 237. According to the officer, two women (a mother and daughter) were on the lease for that apartment.
Around 5:30 PM on November 11 I was working at my desk when Jenny called me outside. She and Kristopher’s father were now talking to the girl and one of the guys who had been in the window. Jenny and Kristopher’s father had found them searching the grass for the paintballs.
According to the guy, who looked to be in his early twenties, it was his friend who shot the gun. This man did not volunteer his name or the name of his friend. He seemed edgy, as if he expected Kristopher’s father and I to assault him. I learned later his name was Tim.
Tim's girlfriend seemed overly good-natured about the incident. She said, "I can promise you that they were just target-shooting into our backyard. Some of the paintballs just happened to ricochet.”
I said, "What really bothers me is that you guys shot a kid and didn’t bother to see if he was all right.” There was a lot more bothering me, but I bit my tongue.
Tim said, "Well when the kid was shot I asked him if he was OK. He nodded and said he was OK.”
While I didn’t contest it at the time, I knew the statement was probably not true. Christian is the type of child that becomes inconsolably hysterical when he gets hurt… he would not have patiently nodded any answers because Christian would not have been coherent enough to hear a question. Later I asked Chris, "Did anyone talk to you at all after you were shot?” Chris said that no one spoke to him. Chris also said that the guys in the window had warned him not to tell anyone about this incident.
I said to Tim, "Well, it seems a little suspicious that I came pounding on your door fifteen minutes later and no one was there.” It was actually around half an hour after the shooting by the time I reached his door. According to neighbors, the occupants fled their home quickly just moments after the shot to Chris.
Kristopher’s father nodded, saying, "Something’s not right here.”
Tim said, "Well my girlfriend had to get to the babysitter’s.”
"And your friend?” we asked. "He just scattered?”
Tim said, "I had him take the gun and leave.”
I said, "You say you were just target practicing… but there’s no way that four kids are hit in the same day from ricochets. And one was hit yesterday. The kids all said they saw you guys up there, sometimes hiding. They say they heard a woman laughing. The girls say that someone roared after shooting, as if trying to frighten them. This was no accident. It was on purpose.”
It was a game.
Tim seemed extra nervous now. He probably expected a beating from two angry parents. He said, "I wasn’t the one who shot, I promise that. It was my friend. I can ask him to come and talk to you guys next time he comes over… I’ve got no problem with that.”
We shook our heads in disbelief. This guy was saying, in essence, "I was only enjoying the show; I didn’t have anything to do with it.” But he was right there, according to his own admission, whether he pulled the trigger or not.
After Kristopher’s father left and Jenny went inside, I said to Tim, "You know what? The first thing I thought when I found out what happened was that some psychopath was going off or someone is high on crack… either way, someone was really fucked up in the head. And for you to say you weren’t involved is ridiculous. If one of my friends was in the window shooting kids, I would kick my friend out the window and ask them what the hell they were doing. I wouldn’t let my friend do something like that.”
Tim nodded. He said, "Yeah, that was my fault.”
In my head I thought that this guy had a lot of guts to talk to angry parents, so I reached out my hand before I parted. He shook it limply, and I could see from his pale expression and weak handshake that he was feeling frightened and, in my estimation, guilty.
Whatever the explanation for the shootings is, it’s not acceptable. I disbelieve this man’s excuse, and I feel that he was not honest about his role. But I’m pretty sure of one thing… there is an angry gang of parents in this neighborhood now—a gang who won’t tolerate this behavior. This won’t happen again… since next time I’m sure that a punk will find himself in deep trouble with his neighbors—then sent to jail.
On November 13 Tim came back to my door. He said he'd heard that we may press criminal charges against him and his friends.
I explained that I wasn't in a position to charge because Christian was not my biological son or legally under my custody... but that his mother might--as well as the other parents. I added that I would already have filed charges had the shot hit my son.
Tim handed me a torn corner from a personal check. It contained the name of, according to him, the girlfriend of the man who shot our kids. It also contained the name "Frank" hand-written in red ink.
Tim said that Frank was the offender. I asked what Frank's last name was, and Tim said he didn't know. He said that Frank lived with his girlfriend in East Sparta, Ohio.
I was incredulous that Tim wouldn't know the last name of his friend.
Tim said, "When I heard that you guys would press charges, I wanted to make sure to bring this [information] over so none of it would come back on me."
Tim said he feared backlash from the community. I said to him, "You know what? There's no way you can avoid it. Even if you had nothing to do with the shooting, there's no way for you to avoid a backlash."
I said, "If one of my friends was in my home shooting kids--even if I was no where around and knew nothing of it while it was happening--I would know and expect that the community would be tremendously angry at me. There's no way getting around it. He was your friend, in your house."
I said, "I just have to ask you one thing. Why didn't you stop him?"
Tim said, "I didn't know about it."
It just didn't make sense. Tim had already admitted that he was present when Chris was shot. How could he have been there and not know that his friend was shooting kids? Moreover, who was the second male the kids claim was also shooting? Tim hasn't made any remarks on other participants, and the children are very certain there were two males and an adult female.