By Mary O’KEEFE
On Sunday evening Glendale police responded to a call concerning three masked males with guns in the area of La Crescenta and Manhattan avenues. Initial reports had the three suspects on and near the property of the Crescenta Valley Church.
After an investigation it was discovered the “males with guns” were in fact teenagers who were playing a game similar to paintball but with airsoft guns, according to Officer Robert William.
One of the teens was found at the scene, the others were later found and their parents were contacted.
The initial response to this call included 17 law enforcement officers from Glendale and Los Angeles County Sheriffs as well as Glendale fire paramedics and air support.
The cost of this response has yet to be estimated, but it is a response that GPD will continue to do when a call like this is received, William said.
He added these days receiving a call about masked armed men at a church is a scenario that is unfortunately not out of the realm of possibility and requires a serious response.
“Always send as much as you can … When we get a call of a man with a gun we always err on the side of caution. [If the person] is described as a kid we don’t rely on that. We respond to that call,” William said of the practice. “You don’t know how many suspects [you might] have. Once there you start figuring it out and you can scale down [if necessary]. It is easier to do that then to get there with little resources.”
In this case there were three witnesses at the church, and one of them made the call to GPD. The first indication to police that this may not have been as much of a threat came when there were no other calls from neighbors, but it was not until officers arrived at the location did they determine that it was teens playing a game.
One of the witnesses stated that they thought the other two “males” were still on the property so police conducted a search.
All of this activity had neighbors and social media buzzing, which is another concern of William’s who was reading the comments.
“One [person] on social media really set the tone for panic,” William said. “[The person] was listening to the [police] scanner and [indicated] the church was being robbed by three men with masks and guns.”
In addition, people were commenting on having weapons themselves and how they could put a stop to this incident. This is a concern because of what could have happened, although William said he does not believe in Crescenta Valley people would have taken the law into their own hands. However, with the chatter on social media and the concern for safety, if these kids, who were scared of getting in trouble, ran home a person feeling threatened could have responded with a weapon of their own.
William added that if the public is in jeopardy there are programs like Neighborhood Watch notifications that are in place to inform neighbors. In the past when there have been incidents from bears to suspects fleeing a crime, GPD officers have gone door to door to speak with residents.
This incident was simply “teenagers using bad judgment,” William said.
“They were not arrested or charged, and although it is a crime to discharge a weapon in public there is no indication that had happened,” William said. “[For the teens] it was a good lesson learned.”