Three 17-year-old boys were arrested last week after police said they went on an hour-long spree of shooting paintball and BB guns at cars and buildings, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Police identified those arrested as Elan Luger of Atlantic Beach, Lee Bienstock of Lawrence and Yale Lipschik of Woodmere and charged them with criminal mischief and criminal tampering, which are felonies, officials said.
The spree took place between 10 and 11 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Lawrence and North Lawrence. When it was over, damage was done to at least five cars, the elementary-school building of the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, at 33 Washington Ave., Lawrence, and a footwear and accessories store on Rockaway Turnpike in North Lawrence, said Det. Sgt. John Azzata of the Fourth Squad. In addition, paintballs were fired at traffic-light control boxes, heavily damaging them, police said.
A paintball gun is an air gun that shoots gelatin capsules that splash paint when a target is hit, police said. Red and orange were two visible colors sprayed during the vandalism.
Police said the Five Towns have been plagued by such incidents for about two months and are investigating whether the three boys can be linked to any of the 10 to 15 other incidents that have taken place in the area, Azzata said.
"It looks like it was nothing personal, but they were doing it just for the fun of it," said Police Officer Domenick Stanganelli of the Fourth Precinct. "I guess it's their form of entertainment."
During the hour-long spree on March 15, police said a 1994 Chevy Suburban and a 1999 Chevy each had its rear window broken by a BB-gun pellet, resulting in $150 in damages to each car. Much of the criminal mischief took place on Cedarhurst Avenue, west of Broadway, in Cedarhurst, and on Broadway and Washington Avenue in Lawrence, authorities said.
A 1996 Chevy, a 1999 Lincoln and a 1999 Nissan were all shot with paintgun pellets, Azzata said. The rear of HAFTR was also the target of paintball pellets, and the sneaker shop was hit with a BB pellet, which shattered the window and was said to cause $1,000 in damages.
The teens were charged with criminal tampering after being accused of damaging the traffic-light control boxes, which could have knocked out the signals and produced a dangerous situation, police said. The boxes are near the traffic lights and allow police to manually operate the lights, using a key, in an emergency.
Fourth Precinct police officers, who were on alert for the vandals, arrested the teens at 11:15 p.m. March 15, near the HAFTR school, authorities said.
"I don't know what their motive was or what was in their minds. All I know is, it wasn't right," Azzata said.
"These were just random acts," he added. "It is not at all fun, especially for the victims of these crimes. I have no clue why they would do something like this. I guess they purchased a paintball gun and wanted to test it out. It seems a shame that they did this to people's property because they wanted to test a paintball gun."
Paintball guns can legally be purchased over-the-counter and are used in games of paintball.
Police say 3 damaged property, using paintball, BB guns