Crime

Two teens charged after 'paintball wars' in Durham

Gear used in paintball includes an air-powered gun and hopper, paintballs that are gelatin balls filled with paint and burst on contact, and a protective mask.
Gear used in paintball includes an air-powered gun and hopper, paintballs that are gelatin balls filled with paint and burst on contact, and a protective mask. File photo

A war is raging on the streets of Durham — a paintball war.

Durham police received 14 reports of paintball guns being used over a five-day period between Tuesday and Sunday. Police spokesman Wil Glenn referred to the reports as "Paintball Wars" in a recent post on Nextdoor.com, a social network for neighborhoods.

Two 17-year-old girls were charged Saturday in the 2700 block of Dearborn Drive: Shanna Latrice Purcell and Taylor Ross. They were charged with injury to real property and discharging a firearm in the city limits.

A 2011 Honda Accord sustained $15 worth of damage, according to a police report.

Police posted on the Nextdoor website to ask for help to quell the paintball activity, which has mostly been reported near the intersection of South Street and West Enterprise Street.

Police spokesman Wil Glenn said the culprits were probably children who use paintball guns for fun, and he asked parents to talk to their kids about it.

“'Paintball Wars' have been increasing recently and the trend is not only illegal, but a dangerous one that can cause serious harm to residents and property," he wrote.

Glenn said people might confuse paintball guns or paintball pellets for real weapons. He said "it’s not always immediately apparent that the projectiles are only paintballs and someone could react as if it were a real firearm. That same potential for confusion is possible during any police encounter."

A “paintball wars” fad swept through Atlanta earlier this month, apparently after rapper 21 Savage posted videos of himself shooting cars around the city with paint.

Atlanta's paintball wars were reportedly intended to discourage the use of real firearms.

Glenn said it is possible that the recent paintball activity in Durham could have been sparked by copycats. “We’re aware of some activity in other areas, including Charlotte,” he said.

A recent paintball shoot-out in Charlotte led to the arrest of six people. The men behind the shooting told Charlotte media that paintball guns are a way to vent aggressive feelings without resorting to actual firearms.

Under a Durham city ordinance, "It shall be unlawful for any person other than an officer authorized by law, or upon a range legally permitted by the chief of police, to discharge or shoot any firearm, pump gun, air rifle, air pistol, BB gun, crossbow, bow and arrow, slingshot, or any other weapon of like kind within the city."

“It is my understanding that most paintball guns work with either pump action or compressed air,” said Toni Smith, attorney for the Durham Police Department. “So, I think that would capture most, if not all, paintball guns in how they operate.”



Violators of the ordinance could face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum fine of $500.

Glenn said paintball users could also be charged with discharging a dangerous weapon in the city limits or injury to real property.

Paintball pellets can cause serious injuries to someone who is not wearing proper protective gear, Glenn wrote on the website.

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Paintballs are about one half inch in diameter and are filled with paint. File photo

"We don’t want anyone hurt, either by being struck by a paintball or because they got scared and shot back, and we don’t want anyone to have to spend money to repair something that someone broke for fun," he wrote.

No serious injuries have been reported.

If you have information, call Durham police at 919-560-4600 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases, and callers can remain anonymous.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks
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