Wounded boy's pellet gun is said to look real

March 12, 1994|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

The pellet gun that a 14-year-old boy allegedly aimed at two Baltimore police officers Thursday before he was wounded by an officer was a "look-alike pistol" and may have been mistaken for a .44-caliber Magnum, a police firearm expert said yesterday.

Charlie William Maultsby was shot in the chest at Walbrook Junction in West Baltimore after he pointed at officers a Crossman air pistol that closely resembles a Magnum handgun, said Lt. Charles J. Key, firearm training supervisor of the city police Education and Training Division.

The youth, who lived in the 3500 block of Foxcliff Court in Randallstown, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he underwent surgery and, last night, was in serious condition.

Southwestern District Officers Ernest Coppage and Juan Oliver saw the youth aim the loaded BB gun at a man during an argument on the shopping center parking lot, police said. The officers ordered him to drop the gun, but they said he pointed it at them.

Officer Coppage quickly fired three shots, striking the youth once in the chest. The officer, a four-year veteran, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

At city police headquarters yesterday, Lieutenant Key displayed .44-caliber Ruger Magnum and a pellet gun similar to the one found at Thursday's shooting. Both guns had 4- to 6-inch barrels and similar cylinders.

The only notable difference was that the Magnum had a larger bore -- the hole at the end of the barrel where bullets or pellets exit.

"I promise you something that occurs with anyone: when they see a weapon, they don't bother looking at the size of bores and that kind of thing. They'll focus in on the gun," Lieutenant Key said.

Whether an officer uses force depends on the officer's spontaneous judgment, he said. If possible, the officer takes cover when a weapon is pointed in his direction and orders the gunman to drop it. "But it's not always possible to do that," he said.

Agent Doug Price, a Police Department spokesman, said the man and youth had been arguing because the youth had allegedly shot the man's 9-year-old daughter with the pellet gun. She was not injured.

At the shopping center yesterday, several youths said that pellet guns are carried by others because they are easier to obtain and punishment is less severe if caught.

"You ain't risking as much," said Kevin Stanley, 16, of West Baltimore. "Don't no one know if they real or not, and if you just want to scare someone it'll work."

Pellet guns can be bought at department stores or through catalogs and magazines.

Agent Price said it's "very much in vogue" to have pellet guns. Lieutenant Key said he was aware of several recent instances in which someone has pointed a pellet or "replica" gun at police officers.

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