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'Drive by shootings' in Park Rapids causing increasing alarm

An 18-year-old and a 20-year-old were arraigned Monday afternoon on charges related to recent drive by shooting incidents in Park Rapids.

A third individual, a juvenile, is in custody and was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.

While Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers is pleased at progress on the vandalism, he said he fears someone is going to get hurt.

Young people are using BB guns and Airsoft guns that shoot plastic BBs. A lot of kids are having fun with them and using them appropriately, Eilers said. But BB guns and the newer Airsoft guns look like real weapons and some kids are bringing them in cars.

"Our officers have found them lying on seats, stuffed in car seats and pockets."

When police see a weapon, "the first thing they do is draw down on them," Eilers said. "If officers meet someone in a dark alley and see what looks like a weapon, they have to make a split-second decision and I don't want our officers to be put in that position.

"I want people to understand Airsoft and BB guns are not toys and I don't want one of our officers to make a split-second decision in the dark" that has serious consequences.

Eilers said while arrests have been made, the department is still looking for others who have been involved in 20 to 30 drive by shootings in the city. Recently, the department has responded to calls of shootings at empty school buses, vehicles, garages and even residences.

A .22-caliber rifle was used in some of the shootings, he said. A cartridge from a .22 will penetrate a wall, he said.

Those arrested did not have a .22-caliber in their possession.

Eilers is asking the public to help serve as the department's "eyes and ears."

The department has 24 coverage of the whole city, sometimes assisting Hubbard County on calls and also responding to some medical calls.

"We all work together, but we need other eyes and ears," he said.

Eilers added that some people aren't reporting the shooting incidents. "We are busy throughout the night, but we need to know. We've heard the comment, 'We didn't want to bother you,' or 'nothing will happen anyway,'" Eilers said.

"If a window is shot out or people hear something, we need to know before they move onto other places." The total value of property damage in the vandalism is becoming significant, he said.

The arrests early Sunday morning, Eilers said, "were the result of someone who saw something stupid, reported it and we were there in a couple of minutes."