Parishioners working outside their church ran for cover mid-afternoon Friday when someone began firing pellets or BB gun projectiles, narrowly missing them and shattering a glass light fixture.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m., three men and a 13-year-old boy were fixing up the west-facing exterior of the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall at the northern end of Newhall Avenue when they suddenly came under fire.
“We heard some kind of popping and ricocheting off the wall,” said parishioner James Isaac.
“We not only heard the shots but we felt something,” he said. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Did what we think just happened really happen?’”
When one of the shots shattered the glass housing of a wall-mounted light, they got their answer. The shooting — although from a pellet gun or BB gun — really happened.
Although at least a half-dozen shots were fired, no one was struck and no one was hurt.
The shooting prompted an immediate response by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Responding deputies were told only of a shooting, not knowing it was likely pellets that had been fired from a pellet or BB gun.
“A church on the 25000 block of Newhall Avenue was shot,” Sgt. Erica Gooseberry said when the incident was first reported.
Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station, said later in the incident: “As per (Lt. Jim) Royal, it looks like it was a BB or pellet gun.”
Asked if the incident was being investigated as a hate crime, one of the investigating deputies at the scene said, “Not at this time.”
Both deputies and parishioners believe the shooting was the work of teenagers “bored in the middle of summer.”
“We were in the line of fire,” parishioner Pat Carey said.
When they phoned 911, the dispatcher told them to go into the building, which they did, Carey said.
“We kept her on the phone,” he said.
Within a couple of minutes, deputies arrived in “stealth mode,” Carey said.
Deputies in a half-dozen cruisers blocked access to the Newhall Avenue cul-de-sac at 16th Street.
Carey said he was impressed with how fast deputies were on the scene.
“From the time we made the (911) call to when they were coming down the street — with lights but no sirens — was within five minutes,” he said.
The parishioners were asked by deputies using a loud hailer to come out of the church one at a time.
Asked if he thought the shooting was a hate crime, Carey said: “It’s more likely kids with nothing better to do. But, with us being there, it takes it to a whole different level.”
No suspect was taken into custody in connection with the incident.
“It’s a little unnerving,” Carey said. “It should still be dealt with severely.”
The Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall was built in 1996, on Newhall Avenue next to the South Fork Creek wash.
The shooting marks the first time the hall was subjected to this type of violent incident.
“We’re peacemakers,” Carey said. “We’re the ones that knock on your door and ask you to read the Bible.”
One of the aspects of a BB gun that distinguishes it from a pellet gun is the shape of the projectiles used. BB gun pellets resemble ball bearings, while pellets have a circular top and a tapered end. Also, pellets are usually about twice the size of BBs.
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