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Paint Ball Gun Attack Raises a Welt--and Ire

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gaping down the barrel of a rifle aimed by a ski-masked man, 17-year-old Simi Valley skateboarder Richard Ney thought to himself, “Oh, God, I’m gonna get shot.”

Then, BLAM, the gunman shot him in the face.

Awash in what he thought was blood, Richard recalled clutching his wounded cheek and stumbling into a nearby restaurant, screaming, as his buddies chased the gunman’s fleeing car on foot as far as they could.

But the gore was just flesh-colored paint from a paint ball like those used by adults in backwoods war games.

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And the terrifying attack that Richard thought was a drive-by shooting on Friday struck police on Saturday as nothing but a simple battery with no identifiable suspects, barely worth investigating, he said.

Without a good description of the shooter, detectives told him, there was nothing they could do.

So on Monday, Richard’s father, Dan Ney stood before the City Council and angrily demanded that they make police take action.

The attack on his son was not a harmless prank that merely left an ugly scab, but an assault with a deadly weapon that could have blinded or killed the boy, Dan Ney said.

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“If we don’t get a grip on this now and start taking some hard, serious action, where are we going to be?” he demanded. “Are we going to be overrun by thugs?”

After the meeting, Police Chief Randy Adams assured Ney that police will look into the shooting.

“We’re fully going to investigate it, and if we can identify and prosecute a suspect, we will to the fullest extent of the law,” Adams said in an interview Monday after discussing the case with the Ventura County district attorney’s office.

“The fact that the incident occurred is troublesome,” he said. “I understand that kids will be kids and horseplay and so forth, but something like that is serious.”

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The plastic paint balls reach speeds of more than 280 feet per second, fired by compressed gas from specialized guns available in sporting goods stores.

The shooter risked hurting or killing Richard--and being killed himself had he fired at someone who chose to fire back with a real gun, Adams said, calling the incident “extremely foolish.”

It happened just after 9 p.m., the quiet time in the Target parking lot when shopping traffic is gone and Richard and his friends usually skateboard across the deserted asphalt.

A weather-beaten turquoise 1970 Buick Skylark stopped nearby, then drove away. Five minutes later, it returned with its headlights off and stopped again, Richard said.

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“They had the windows rolled down,” he recalled. “He had a black ski mask on. He was pointing a gun at me, and I’m like ‘Oh, God, I’m gonna get shot.’ ”

When the paint-filled pellet smashed into his cheek, Richard said, “I was thinking the whole side of my face got blown off, and I didn’t deserve it.”

Once he had mopped off the paint and composed himself, he said, he and his friends flagged down police cars at a nearby coffee shop and the officers called detectives.

The detectives came and interviewed Richard, checked his ID and his injuries, took a couple of photos and left.

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It was not until the next night, when his mother, Margaret Ney, went to the Simi Valley police station to follow up that the Neys learned the case was not getting much attention.

Even after Dan Ney searched nearby neighborhoods, found the shooter’s car and reported its license number to police, the officers were not encouraging, she said.

“The detective said there wasn’t much that could be done,” she said. “They didn’t look at that rifle as a weapon. As my husband said at City Hall, if you get a rock and throw it at someone it becomes a weapon.”

Whether prank or assault, the paint ball left a nasty, scabbed welt the size of a nickel on Richard’s swollen right cheek, and anger in his voice that he barely contained.

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“I think that a paint ball should be considered a deadly weapon,” he said.

“If it had been four inches higher, it would have hit my temple and I’d be dead,” he said. “Or it would have hit me in the eye and it would have gone straight into my head.”

His mother was outraged.

“In the 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed a big decline in the city,” said Margaret Ney, a New Zealand native. “I don’t think of it as one of the safest cities anymore.”

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Richard added that Adams assured him Monday that he, too was hit in the face with a paint ball during a training exercise--and that the scab would disappear in time.

Richard added, “I hope so.”


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