REAL OR FAKE? YOU DECIDE: To say “they were only paintball guns” misses the gravity of an incident that brought heavily armed police from four towns to a quiet New Milford neighborhood. At a glance, without looking closely, can you tell whether this photo is of a genuine rifle or not?
It turned out that two teenagers were walking around with paintball guns, including the one pictured here.
But a resident who saw them didn’t know that. And police simply couldn’t take a chance, not knowing what they were dealing with.
In the end, no one was hurt. A needless expenditure of resources was used, at taxpayer expense.
But there’s a more important point here.
“A horrible tragedy could have unfolded [Wednesday] if an officer had inadvertently confronted the youths while they were displaying their ‘toys’,” New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro said.
The call of a man with a rifle in a New Bridge Road driveway came in just before 9:30 a.m. Moments later, the caller stopped and told a Bergenfield officer the same thing — only now she’d seen a second gunman, Papapietro said.
Both got into “an SUV-type vehicle” and left the area, he said.
New Milford, Bergenfield, Teaneck and River Edge police surrounded the home where the woman had seen the pair. they closed down New Bridge Road from Boulevard to River Road.
Heavily armed officers were about to bash in the door, Papapietro said, when a man inside opened it.
“He was removed from the residence and interviewed while the interior was searched,” the chief said.
It didn’t take long to figure out that the man’s younger brother was in the SUV. Using his cellphone, he called his brother, who told police two other teens picked him up. He said he and his friends had a set of paintball guns, Papietro said.
Their parents brought the teenagers — and the guns — to police headquarters soon after, the chief said.
Police put the guns on a table next to a department shotgun.
“Although the parents involved recognized their own child’s paintball gun,” the chief said, “they were unable to distinguish the other paintball guns, from the real one.”
Police released the minors into their parents’ custody while they consider possible delinquent complaints.
“Although paintball guns are considered recreational toys, parents need to understand that there is a real danger when realistic-looking firearms are carried outside the confines of the home,” Papapietro said.