A random example of someone participating in paintball. Photo via Pixabay

Los Angeles police are warning the public about the danger and harm of paintball attacks that have nearly tripled in the past year.

The Los Angeles Police Department has warned of the increased use of paintball guns by suspects, specifically in South Los Angeles where the department’s South Bureau has counted 68 paintball victims, compared with 24 at this time last year.

One of the victims, 9-year-old Aron Marrujo, said he is afraid to play outside after he was shot by a paintball gun in his right eye, requiring nine stitches, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Aron was playing in the frontyard of a friend’s home when paintballs began raining from a passing car.

He was one of the victims to speak at Friday’s news conference where a display of photos showed the serious injuries of other victims.

Some shooters post videos of their exploits on social media, potentially inspiring others to use paintball guns to commit robberies, vandalize buildings or injure strangers, said Deputy Chief Phillip Tingirides at the news conference.

“It’s almost become a fad, if you will,” Tingirides told a news conference Friday. He heads the South Bureau.

Upon release from the gun, paintballs can travel 300 feet per second, said Capt. Leland Sands of the LAPD’s Southwest Division at the conference.

Paintball guns have improved in accuracy and velocity, making them more likely to inflict serious injuries, Tingirides said.

Some paintball guns look like real assault weapons and LAPD officials fear that an officer might mistake a paintball gun for a real gun and shoot the person wielding it, according to The Times. They are urging people to report tips about paintball crimes.

Four teenagers, ages 14 to 18, have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon in the attack on Aron, the newspaper reported. Investigators believe the shooting was random and that the teenagers were not targeting anyone else at the house.

“Whether or not they choose to use these because they’re more accessible than getting an actual handgun, the fact of the matter is, it’s still a crime,” Sands said.

At West 92nd and South Figueroa streets last week, LAPD vice officers witnessed a prostitute being shot with a paintball gun, Tingirides said. The same officers had also seen a homeless man targeted by paintball shooters. Several people were arrested in each attack, the newspaper reported.

Paintball shooters tend to be young, between ages 17 and 20, Tingirides said. Police believe some gang members have switched from real guns to paintball guns, because they know the penalties are lighter and because they may want to shoot without killing.

Through the end of July, there were 93 paintball incidents in the South Bureau, according to LAPD statistics, including vandalism as well as attacks on people, according to The Times. The number was 25 for the first seven months of 2016 and 15 for that time period in 2015.

Citywide, there have been 116 paintball incidents through the end of July.

—City News Service

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