N.Y. Cop Faced Split-Second Decision at School

Sept. 30, 2013
Troy Officer Charles Castle saw a teen with a gun on school grounds that ended up being a pellet gun.

TROY, N.Y. -- As students were getting out of Troy High School Friday, two 13-year-old boys started flashing gang signs.

Then one of them pulled out a black pistol.

Officer Charles Castle watched as one teen passed the handgun to the other. Castle, an officer assigned to the school, drew his pistol and started heading toward them.

It was the end of the week at the high school, where police dealt with growing concerns about problems between students who didn't attend the school.

The teen with the gun spotted Castle and dove behind a car. He tossed the weapon and shouted: "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" according to the police report.

"I was half a second away from making a decision," Castle later told superior officers.

The weapon the teen threw away was a pellet gun. But Castle didn't know that when he faced the students. All he saw was a pistol in the hand of a student who didn't attend the high school.

Both students involved attend the city school district's Alternative Learning Program at School 12, police said. The Alternative Learning Program provides an educational opportunity for students who don't perform well in a traditional classroom setting.

One 13-year-old was arrested. The other ran away, but was quickly captured. Both were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and criminal trespass. Because the teens are minors, the case will be handled in family court. They were put in the custody of the Rensselaer County Probation Department.

The weapons charges arose from the students being too young to possess a pellet gun, Cooney said. The trespassing came from them not being high school students.

Capt. John Cooney said there was no way for the officer to tell the teenager was wielding a pellet gun and not a real firearm.

The incident shows the continuing danger that easily obtainable pellet guns pose to officers and the public, Cooney said. Friday's incident happened as classes were letting out at 3:18 p.m., a time when students are streaming out of the school.

Pellet and BB guns, which use compressed air to fire their ammunition, are not controlled by federal regulation. Such decision are left to the states.

An estimated 3.2 million pellet guns are sold in the United States each year, according the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Copyright 2013 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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