A Colorado family is celebrating after their young son had his record cleared of an arrest for “menacing” drivers with a broken Nerf gun.
In a Feb. 26 Facebook post, Stefanie Carpenter described how her 10-year-old son was handcuffed and booked for playing a character from the popular online video game “Fortnite.” Gavin was arrested on July 24, 2019, along with a friend, also aged 10.
While Gavin was armed with a Nerf crossbow at the time, the friend was carrying a toy rifle, Carpenter said. Both weapons were bright orange unable to fire projectiles because they were broken.
The friends play-shot at five to 10 cars that passed by on the street before a man in a truck slammed on his brakes, tires screeching, and thew car into reverse. He then began yelling at the boys, who ran into the friend’s grandparent’s nearby house.
The man followed them, and a doorbell camera video shows him yelling at an adult who answered the door.
“I don’t know what kind of gun it is. It was some kind of gun,” the unidentified man shouts in the footage.
A voice from in the house asks the man to “watch his mouth,” but he continues to yell.
“How about this? How about I call the [expletive] cops?” the man is heard saying.
Gavin told KXRM’s Fox21 News in Colorado Springs that he was “very scared” by the man’s behavior.
“The toy bow was an orange Nerf bow,” Gavin said. “It didn’t work. Nothing could shoot out of it. Nothing would come out of it. The weapon, well, toy I had, had an orange tip. It was also broken and couldn’t shoot anything out of it.”
Cops bust Gavin Carpenter for pointing Nerf gun
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office deputies soon arrived at the home and arrested Gavin and his friend. The officers drove the boys in handcuffs to the Colorado Springs police headquarters for fingerprinting and mugshots.
Gavin was in tears, according to his mother’s Facebook post.
“I told them I had no intention to have scared them or have any threat to their life,” Gavin said.
His parents, Steve and Stephanie Carpenter, followed the police to the station, where Gavin was eventually released at about 10:30 p.m.
The Carpenters hired an attorney. But they said the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office was adamant about pursuing the charge of menacing, which is a class five felony. Chris Carpenter told KXRM that they opted for a rehabilitation program that allowed Gavin to avoid a conviction.
“It was just a hard no, that the district attorney wasn’t going to throw this out,” Chris Carpenter said. “That is when we moved into the diversion program.”
Gavin was required to perform community service and submit an essay along with his grades for court review. More than seven months later, his felony record was expunged.
Officials decline comment on specifics of case
The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Colorado Springs told KOAA-TV it could not comment on a case involving a juvenile. Pluralist left a voicemail with the office requesting comment but did not immediately hear back.
However, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office issued a general statement in response to the station’s inquiry.
“There are times when it would be appropriate to charge menacing when a toy gun is involved,” the police said. “If someone Knowinglyplaces someone in fear of serious bodily injury or death menacing would be appropriate.
“There are administrative avenues available to anyone who has a concern about how members of the Sheriff’s Office conduct business,” the statement added.
In her Facebook post, Stefanie Carpenter said her family looks forward to moving when her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, is transferred to a new post in a few months.
“I can’t live in a state where my kids can’t be kids and play outside without being scared of being arrested,” she said.
In recent months, authorities in a number of states have investigated, and in some cases, investigated children for playing with toy or finger guns.
Last November, a 6-year-old kindergartner with Down syndrome in the Philadelphia area was reported to police for pointing her finger at her teacher and saying, “I shoot you.”
The following month, a New York-based consumer watchdog group wrote to Hasbro, the toymaker behind the Nerf line of foam projectiles, demanding it “remove assault-style toy weapons” from its offerings.
The Empire State Consumer Project’s letter said: “Toy guns are one thing, but these emblems of mass destruction take them to the next, horrifying level.”