Twenty-eight people were shot with paintball guns in Los Angeles so far this year, and officials are warning of the improper use of the typically recreational weapon.
During a news conference Thursday, two Los Angeles police lieutenants detailed some of the alleged assaults that have occurred this year.
The victims range from 12 to 80 years old. In four incidents, people were robbed. Only five arrests have been made in connection with those assaults, officials said. Some of the culprits were apparently minors, but the paintball guns can be purchased at sporting goods stores by adults.
Last year, 5-year-old boy was struck in face and almost lost eye.
In July 2017, officials held a similar news conference after 49 people were with paintball guns that month.
The LAPD officials said there has also been a slight increase in the use of pellet guns and BB guns.
Lt. Jeff Bratcher said that assaults with paintball guns are serious offenses, and could lead to prison time.
"Innocent residents were assaulted walking to school, riding their bikes or just walking to the store," Bratcher said during the news conference. "The sad part is many suspects video tape it, or post on social media and you can hear the suspects laughing as the victims cry out in pain."
He added that, though some victims only end up with their clothing soaked in paint, others can suffer emotional trauma, welts or lacerations. Some of those welts are so deep, the victims are often left with a lifelong injury that doesn’t completely heal.
Lt. Perry Griffith explained that a typical paintball gun can hold up to 20 paintballs, and more can be held in a belt. The guns are usually semi-automatic, but can be adjusted to be fully automatic, he explained. The balls can be frozen and can lead to significant injuries. In addition, the guns can often look like real firearm.
The lieutenants emphasized that paint-balling is an "exhilarating" experience, it is important to only exercise the sport in a controlled environment, where the guns are properly inspected and handled.
They asked people who know of loved ones or neighbors who own paintball guns, to remind them of their proper use.