'Exceptionally dangerous': BB gun shootings put Bellevillle cops on edge

News-DemocratJuly 1, 2014 

A pair of 17-year-old boys were arrested early Tuesday after they allegedly shot the window out of a passing car in the 1700 block of Mascoutah Avenue -- then shot out a window of a Belleville police car and damaged a St. Clair County Sheriff's Department vehicle responding to the scene.

According to police reports, a motorist was driving his van at about 2:50 a.m. when one of its windows shattered. He called police and said he thought someone shot his car. When an officer arrived, the rear driver's side window was shot out and the patrolman called for backup.

Belleville Police Department Capt. Don Sax said the case easily could have had a tragic end.

"It's exceptionally dangerous to do something like this on multiple levels," Sax said. "When you're a law enforcement officer and windows in your car are shattering, there's a distinct possibility that you're going to ... return fire."

Sax said officers had no way from a distance to tell that the gun was a pellet gun and officers have to be extra careful about the potential to encounter civilians with firearms, especially because of the passage of concealed carry legislation.

Even with pellet guns, Sax said, a hit in the right place could kill a person. Or a shot could temporarily disable a driving motorist long enough to cause a deadly crash.

Sax said the responding officer, in the heat of the moment, didn't know what kind of weapon was firing, which is why police responded in force.

Several city police cruisers as well as cars from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department arrived to canvas the area for suspects. The suspects were not found initially, but it was discovered at that time that the Sheriff's Department vehicle had also been struck.

Police returned to the neighborhood later in the morning and were able to identify the alleged shooters after talking with area residents. The teenagers were arrested and taken to the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626.

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