A 15-year-old Bullard High School student was charged with 13 misdemeanor assault counts on Tuesday after he fired a battery-powered toy gel blaster gun aboard his school bus, striking 13 other students and nearly hitting the driver, the Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said.
The student had been suspended the day before from the northwest Fresno high school for displaying and firing a toy gun at the school, Botti said. On Tuesday morning he boarded his bus with two of the gel pellet-firing guns, and around 8:13 a.m. a disturbance broke out aboard the bus and the student fired off multiple shots.
Thirteen students were hit but none were injured, Botti said. About 45 to 50 students were on the bus when the incident occurred, he said.
The pellets are water gel balls that typically do not cause serious injury unless they hit someone’s eye.
Although no one was injured, the disturbance could have caused the driver to lose focus on his driving and result in a crash, Botti said.
Driver Nearly Struck
After one of the pellets nearly struck the driver and hit the windshield, the driver stopped the bus at the intersection of Sierra and Warren avenues.
The student then jumped out of a window and took off running, but later turned himself in at the school office. Botti said the student no longer had the gun he had fired on the bus, but his backpack on the bus contained a second gel-shooting toy gun.
“It’s just not a smart decision on this kid’s part, and now he’s going to be held accountable for it,” Botti said.
“It’s hard to say who the main target was, especially when you hear over a dozen other kids getting struck by them. Some may have blown up by the driver. So right now we don’t know what his intention was. Maybe he just wanted attention and he thought it would be funny. And if he could do it in front of his classmates, he’d be a cool kid for the day. Well, now he’s the cool kid in the community who’s in juvenile hall.”
The student was booked into the county’s juvenile hall on 13 counts of assault and battery, Botti said.
Board Policy on Suspensions for Toy Guns
District spokeswoman AJ Kato said the district does not use an ID scan system for students who are boarding buses. She said school officials don’t know if the student’s parents or guardian was aware of Monday’s suspension.
“The site tried to reach them, but no one answered, and they couldn’t leave a message because the mailboxes were full,” she said.
According to Fresno Unified board policy, students who are in possession of an imitation firearm are subject to suspension or expulsion.
Botti said he hoped Tuesday’s incident would be educational for other students as well as parents.
“I would just send a message out to parents, being a father myself, especially of a teenage boy, you hear the ideas that they come up with sometimes, you see the things that they’re about to do,” he said. “And that’s when you got to step up as a parent and tell them, ‘Hey, don’t do that. Quit it.’
“Hopefully by parents seeing this out in the news this evening, they will have a talk with their kid and let them know, ‘hey, there’s consequences for doing dumb stuff like that. So if you’re even thinking about it, knock it off.'”