Berkeley police have recovered the airsoft gun allegedly belonging to the 17-year-old Berkeley High School junior who was arrested for robbing a sophomore Wednesday.
The gun, an Airsoft replica Tec-9 semi-automatic pistol, was discovered on May 8 inside a backpack in the boys’ locker room in the Old Gym by a Berkeley High student who turned it over to school staff.
A photo released by the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) shows a black Nike backpack with what appears to be “Richman Markel G. Kells” scrawled on it with a marker, an Airsoft gun and a bag of pellets.
“More and more of these replica style weapons are being used to commit robberies,” BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet. “Neither a learned officer nor a community member will be able to tell the difference between a real gun and a replica.”
Kusmiss added that although carrying a replica gun did not constitute a crime, pellets fired from it could hurt if aimed at the head or eyes.
“It can break the skin,” she said. “If you carry a replica weapon around, you are certainly taking a risk. Most victims of a robbery think it’s real, so the fear is still there.”
A gun scare caused Berkeley High to go under lockdown Wednesday morning while police searched the campus for the teenage suspect and his weapon.
According to police reports, the semi-masked 11th-grader robbed a sophomore of his Creative Zen MP3 Player at Civic Center Park around 9:42 a.m., and then ran southbound across Allston Way on to the Berkeley High campus as soon as police approached the park.
Police found the 11th-grader in Room 206 on the campus, attending class with fellow students. He was taken into custody without a struggle and booked into the Alameda County Juvenile Hall. His case will be reviewed by the BPD youth services detectives and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, after which recommendations will be made for what action should be taken against him.
BPD officers searched the campus for a weapon which the victim said was tucked into the robber’s waistband, but were unable to find anything Wednesday.
District spokesperson Mark Coplan said the bag was found in a damaged locker in the Old Gym.
“The Old Gym’s locker rooms are pretty awful,” he said. “Outside of athletes, most kids don’t use it. I don’t know how it turned up there.”
Coplan said the California Education Code forbids students from bringing in replica guns.
“I can’t recall any recent cases at Berkeley High,” he said. “I have heard about pellet guns in middle school. But I think a high school kid using one for a robbery is quite different. It’s not permitted on school grounds and is treated like a real weapon.”
Airsoft guns are available in sporting goods stores, Kusmiss said, and an Internet search brings up a wide variety, with prices ranging from $15 up depending on the brand.
Coplan said the school was not going to beef up security because of the incident or take any immediate action against the student charged with robbery.
“Anything we do will be pretty secondary to what the police will do,” he said. “At this point the police have taken over the investigation completely.”