Two Andover teens have been confined to their homes with electronic monitoring after allegedly shooting into crowds of people downtown with an Airsoft shotgun-styled pellet gun, hitting at least five people and injuring none, police said.
People were hit by pellets outside of Orange Leaf, a downtown frozen yogurt shop on Park Street, and Bertucci’s, an Italian restaurant located a few blocks away on Main Street, on Aug. 2. Arrested were Benjamin Warren, 18, of 24 Chester St., and Louis Correra, 17, of 8 Fairfax Drive. Both were charged with five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and both pleaded not guilty to those charges at an arraignment at Lawrence District Court on Friday, Aug. 3.
Police have spoken to two others believed to have been involved in the incident, but charges have not been filed against them, according to police on Tuesday evening.
Warren and Correra were released to their families under a number of conditions that included electronic GPS monitoring, undergoing mental health evaluations and completing any treatment deemed necessary, and surrendering all weapons, according to court documents. They are to be confined to their homes except to attend work or school. They begin their senior years at Andover High School in September.
Attorneys representing the boys did not return calls seeking comment.
“I don’t think they’re particularly being made an example of. I think the judge saw the seriousness of their actions,” said Andover police Chief Brian Pattullo. “It’s a serious event. If someone in that crowd had a weapon and returned fire, we’d be at a whole different set of circumstances.”
With deadly shootings recently “becoming a daily occurrance,” said Pattullo, “they’re pretty lucky nobody did.”
Steve O’Connell, spokesman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the conditions for release were not in any way related to the recent shootings that have received local and national attention, such as the shootings at the “Dark Knight Rises” movie in Colorado.
“We looked specifically at this case,” said O’Connell. “Colorado did not have an impact on this case. We looked at the facts and circumstances of this case, and asked for the conditions we feel would be appropriate.”
Erika Gully-Santiago, a trial court spokesperson, said Judge Mark Sullivan, who presided over the arraignment, set the conditions “based on the facts presented to him and the applicable law.” Gully-Santiago didn’t provide further comment.
The incident has not kept people away from the downtown. Many people were gathered outside Orange Leaf Monday night at around the same time that the shooting took place Thursday.
Hanover, N.H. resident Jackson Blum, visiting a friend in Andover, said he was concerned the incident happened so soon after the recent massacre in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman opened fire with an arsenal of weapons on a movie theater full of people watching a Batman sequel. Twelve people died and 58 more were injured in that shooting.
Even if the weapons that police say the Andover boys used are non-lethal and caused no harm, things could have ended badly, Blum said.
“What if there was a police officer or something nearby?” asked Blum. “They could use their gun on them, thinking they were the real deal.”
Discussions about the incident have focused partly on the list of conditions the two boys face as they await their Sept. 20 conference, and whether the Aurora, Colo. shooting influenced the court’s response.
Andover resident Josh Jacobs, 19, standing with Blum, said he understands “how it’s a tough system. From a public perspective, it’s better to over-protect than to under-protect.”
“But at the same time, the kids have rights,” said Jacobs.
Two more sought as investigation continues
Court documents detailing the incident include narratives written by Andover Police Sgt. Patrick Keefe and Officer Kyle Kiberd.
At around 9 p.m. that evening, police received a call for an incident where “multiple victims have been shot or shot at by a moving vehicle.” The vehicle was described as an SUV-like vehicle circling a parking lot near Orange Leaf, at which time it had driven by the shop and fired pellets into a group of around 30 patrons lined up outside as they waited to get in.
Keefe later caught up with the vehicle, which was still driving through the area, and pulled it over in a parking lot just down the road from Orange Leaf. That vehicle, a brown 2010 Subaru Outback belonging to Warren, had a shotgun-like Airsoft pellet gun and a plastic container of pellets inside, Kiberd wrote. Pellets were also later found in Warren’s pocket, and a hat matching one described by witnesses was also recovered.
Two witnesses were called to the parking lot, where they said they weren’t sure if the Outback was the car they saw, but that “their description of the suspect matched what Warren was wearing,” wrote Kiberd. Both Correra and Warren were then arrested. While wearing handcuffs and still in the parking lot, “Warren made a comment about ‘Batman’ and when asked to elaborate, he denied saying it and began to laugh,” according to Kiberd.
While police were booking Correra and Warren at the police station, two more people stopped at the station wishing to report a similar incident that took place in front of Bertucci’s restaurant at 90 Main St., a few blocks from Orange Leaf. The people said they were shot at, and they gave police a plastic pellet that allegedly had hit one of them, which Kiberd said matched those found in the gun, the plastic container found in Warren’s car and Warren’s pocket.
One of the people also said there were at least three people in the vehicle when it went by them. Police said they have spoken to two people since, but no one else had been charged in the incident as of Tuesday.
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