- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating a report that shots from a pellet gun hit a school bus carrying special-needs students yesterday, renewing concerns about the prevalence of such guns on city streets.

Officer Junis Fletcher, a department spokesman, said investigators are still not sure about what hit the bus, shattering glass that cut an attendant. None of the four children on board was injured.

“Nothing was found as far as the projectile,” Officer Fletcher said. “We don’t know if someone might have thrown something at the bus, or if a car hit a pebble or rock in the roadway and threw it at the bus. We don’t know if it’s a crime or if it’s an accident.”

Leslie Dewes, a D.C. public schools transportation spokeswoman, said several shots apparently were fired at the bus just before 9 a.m. in the 1600 block of First Street Northwest.

Two cars parked nearby also had their windows damaged.

“As soon as I stopped for the traffic and took off, I heard two shots,” driver Richard Smith told WRC-TV (Channel 4). “They hit the first two windows. Then as I was pulling off, I heard the last shot. It hit the rear window. The kids started screaming. I sped up a little bit to get across the light, then I pulled over.”

The children were going to Meyer Elementary School in Northwest and were later taken there on another bus.

The school planned to bring in counselors to speak with the students, Miss Dewes said.

Last year, D.C. police confiscated 61 BB guns, 11 toy guns and 18 pellet guns used during crimes, police statistics show. Police and city officials have said they would like to stiffen the penalties for offenders who use the guns as weapons.

Under current law, if an offender discharges such a gun in the District while committing a crime, that person is charged only with the crime committed.

There is no penalty for owning or carrying a BB gun, air gun or toy, but it is illegal for people younger than 18 to own a BB gun in the District.

“My concern with the BB guns is they are very realistic,” police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. The guns “are used by some to commit robberies.”

Chief Ramsey also said a child was shot Tuesday night with a BB gun, but was not injured.

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