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Queens Chronicle

When is a toy not a toy? When it’s a toy BB gun

DA says Astoria man let 5-year-old wave pellet pistol at kids in a park

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Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:25 am, Thu May 23, 2013.

An Astoria man faces several charges for allegedly bringing what were described as two BB guns to a crowded park May 7, loading one of them with plastic pellets, firing at a tree and then handing them to his children so they could shoot too.

His 5-year-old daughter allegedly ran around the park waving one of the loaded guns at other children.

Zbigniew Pawlowski, 54, of 23rd Avenue is charged with first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest, as well as an administrative violation relating to firearms. He was arraigned last Thursday, released on his own recognizance and must return to court July 9.

He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The incident occurred at Ditmars Park on Steinway Street at about 11:30 a.m. Pawlowski arrived at the park with his daughter and his son, described by an onlooker as 3 years old, and the two guns. After taking some shots at a tree, Pawlowski allegedly handed the guns to his children and allowed them to shoot at several locations in the park, and then let the 5-year-old run around with one of them, which she pointed at other children.

A parent named Richard called the police, according to a report on the incident posted on the Queens Mamas website. He was told officers were on their way, and so he and the other parents gathered their children in an area “away from the bouncing pellets and waited.”

After half an hour, another parent called and was told the police were coming, but they did not arrive, according to the Queens Mamas report. One poster on the website said they arrived only after being contacted by City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, but that could not be confirmed.

Detectives from the 114th Precinct investigated the incident, according to the DA’s office, and when police tried to arrest Pawlowski, he allegedly “flailed his arms in an attempt to avoid being handcuffed and placed under arrest.”

Pawlowski could not be reached, and his attorney, Richard Kopacz, declined to comment on the case. Pawlowski previously told the Daily News that he and the children had not aimed at anyone and that people were being “paranoid.”

The guns were not the type of BB guns that usually fire metal rounds much like ball bearings, but instead were plastic toys that take plastic pellets. City law, however, classifies them as BB guns, and District Attorney Richard Brown said they are not toys.

“Illegal firearms — whether they be a spring-powered pistol or a more conventional deadly firearm — are a serious threat to public safety,” Brown said in announcing the arrest. “By allowing a 5-year-old child to play with the loaded BB gun as if it was just a toy, the defendant is accused of recklessly endangering lives by creating a scenario that could have led to serious injury not just to his own children but innocent others who may have come in contact with the weapon.”

The DA’s office could not say what brand or model the guns were.

The Queens Mamas website described the gun wielded by the little girl as “a plastic .38-caliber loaded pellet gun.”

Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the author of the Queens Mamas post said that approximately 30,000 people are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for BB and pellet gun injuries. Other sources note that even plastic rounds can cause harm, including damage to the eyes.

Most posters on the Queens Mamas website agreed that Pawlowski put the children in the park in danger.

“An adult allowing a child to terrorize other children is unacceptable,” said one commenter who identified herself as an Astoria resident. “I am going to imagine the parents who were actually there were able to recognize a clear and present danger.”

One commenter, however, asked if the offending object was “an air-gun that shoots metal BBs” or “one of those pellet guns, which shoot little plastic balls which sort of fly 10 feet or so before slowly bouncing off of something without incident?”

The poster, who identified himself as from New York University, said the Queens Mamas report made it sound like “the latter,” in which case, he said, “there’s not much to worry about” and “Everybody needs to relax. Save your outrage for Sandy Hook.”

The Queens Mamas post has been taken down, but a cached version can be accessed.

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