Has zero tolerance gone too far

Sep 24, 2013 by

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A suspended seventh grade Virginia Beach student will find out soon if he is expelled for the rest of the year for shooting an airsoft gun.

Like thousands of others in Hampton Roads, Khalid Caraballo plays with airsoft guns. Caraballo and his friend Aidan were suspended because they shot two other friends who were with them while playing with the guns as they waited for the school bus.

The two seventh graders say they never went to the bus stop; they fired the airsoft guns while on Caraballo’s private property.

Aidan’s father, Tim Clark, told WAVY.com what happened next lacks commons sense. The children were suspended for possession, handling and use of a firearm.

Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, thinks it is ridiculous the Virginia Beach City Public School System suspended her 13-year-old son and Aidan because they were firing a spring-driven airsoft gun on the Caraballo’s posted private property. “My son is my private property. He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school.”

The bus stop in question is 70 yards from the Caraballo’s front yard.

Solangel Caraballo was not at home when this incident occurred. She was taking her young son to a Head Start class. She left her 16-year -old daughter in charge.

Khalid and Aiden aren’t only suspended, they were recommended to be expelled for a year for “possession, handling and use of a firearm.”

This story that addresses Zero Tolerance extending to private property began on September 9 with a 911 call from a concerned citizen.

Audio: Listen to the 911 call

A neighbor saw Khalid shooting the airsoft gun in his front yard. She told the dispatcher, “He is pointing the gun, and it looks like there’s a target in a tree in his front yard”.

WAVY.com located the 911 caller and spoke to her. She confirmed Khalid was taking target practice using a zombie hunter airsoft gun to kill the zombies. There was also a net behind the target to catch the plastic pellets.

The caller also knew the gun wasn’t real and said so, “This is not a real one, but it makes people uncomfortable. I know that it makes me (uncomfortable), as a mom, to see a boy pointing a gun,” she told the 911 dispatcher.

The airsoft guns are designed to be non-lethal. Plastic pellets are used, and not copper bb’s.

Ironically, that 911 caller’s son was playing with Khalid and Aidan in the Caraballo front yard on September 12. There were six children playing in an airsoft gun war. “We see the bus come. We put the gun down. We did not take the airsoft gun to the bus stop. We did not take the gun to school,” Khalid explained.

Aidan admits shooting the caller’s son in the arm, and Khalid admits shooting another friend in the back. “He knew we had the airsoft gun. He knew we were playing. He knew people were getting shot. We were shooting at the tree, but he still came and even after he was shot he still played,” referring to the son of the 911 caller.

WAVY.com reached out to the principal of Larkspur Middle School, Matthew Delaney. In a letter obtained by WAVY.com he said his investigation found the “children were firing pellet guns at each other, and at people near the bus stop.” The letter from Delaney says one child “was only 10 feet from the bus stop, and ran from the shots being fired, but was still hit.”

Khalid insists all the shots fired were on his private property. The three children firing the guns were suspended. The three others who did not fire the guns were not suspended.

Khalid thinks it’s unfair. “Yes, it’s unfair because we were in our yard. This had nothing to do with school. I didn’t have anything at school at anytime.”

The Virginia Beach City Code isn’t clear, and goes back and forth. It reads no person “shall…discharge any firearm, spring-propelled rifle or pistol…within…150 yards of any building.” Then it reads “no person shall use a pneumatic gun except at approved shooting ranges or within private property.”

Solangel says, “That is exactly my point. It is private property.”
However, the Code also requires shooting with “permission of the owner.” In this case, the parent is the owner, and she did not give her son, Khalid, permission to fire the gun. He disobeyed her.
“How dare he disobey me, but this is a home issue. It’s not a school issue and it won’t happen again. He will never do this again,” Solangel says looking back at Khalid with a stern face.

Virginia Beach Police say they do not proactively seek out to enforce this code unless “the juveniles are not exercising reasonable care.” Reasonable care is defined as “the gun is discharged in a manner so the projectile is contained on the property by a fence or backstop.”

Police are not charging anyone in this case. They would not discuss the specifics because the people involved are juveniles.

Khalid said he will never do this again. “It’s terrible. I won’t get the chance to go to a good college. It’s

on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren’t going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say ‘oh, we can’t accept you.’ ”

The City codes referenced in this case are as follows:

City Code 38-3, primarily section (d) “ Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, it shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any firearm, spring-propelled rifle or pistol, from, on, across or within one hundred fifty (150) yards of any building, dwelling, street, sidewalk, alley, roadway or public land or public place within the city limits.”

And

Section (f) “No person shall use a pneumatic gun in the area of the city described in (a) above except (i) at approved shooting ranges or (ii) on or within private property with permission of the owner or legal possessor thereof when conducted with reasonable care to prevent a projectile from crossing the bounds of the property. For purposes of this subsection, “pneumatic gun” means any implement designed as a gun that will expel a BB or a pellet by action of pneumatic pressure, including but not limited to paintball guns. Further, for the purpose of this subsection “reasonable care” means that the pneumatic gun is discharged in a manner so the projectile is contained on the property by a backstop, earthen embankment or fence. The discharge of projectiles across or over the bounds of the property shall create the rebuttable presumption that the use of the pneumatic gun was not conducted with reasonable care and shall constitute a Class 3 misdemeanor. “

Virginia Beach Police Sergeant Adam Bernstein released the following statement with regards to this incident:
We understand that a number of juveniles possess air soft guns and have “airsoft gun” wars with each other, but as it relates to the city code referenced above, they are in violation of the code if the juveniles are not exercising “reasonable care”. Also keep in mind that this is not something that we proactively seek out to enforce. If we receive a complaint (such as in the case for which you are doing the story on), we will investigate the call for service and enforce it appropriately, i.e. warning or prosecution. We want to stress to the parents of the juveniles and the operators of these type of “pneumatic guns” that they need to be handled responsibly and with reasonable care to ensure that the projectile is properly contained.

Khalid and two others had an expulsion hearing Monday afternoon to determine if they will be kicked out of their school for the entire year. WAVY News 10 will continue to follow the developments of this story and let you know the outcome of the expulsion rulings.

via WAVY – Has zero tolerance gone too far | WAVY.com | Virginia Beach.

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