Eight-year-old boys shot with airgun

February 10, 2017 | By More

Police began inquiries after teachers noticed small bruises on the legs of twin boys aged eight, a day after they had both been shot with an air gun.

The boys told how they had received their injuries, which a paediatrician diagnosed as minor bruising, and that led to the arrest of two men who were at their house.

The men, Joshua Wilson Phelps, 26, and his younger brother Mathew Thomas Zuppicich, 20, admitted charges of careless use of an airgun when they appeared before Judge Sharon McAuslan in the Christchurch District Court today.

Phelps lives with his partner and her twins and they have a two-year-old son together.

On November 29, Phelps and Zuppicich were at Phelps’ home in St Albans. They had bought a Predator CM16 BB gun, which has an effective range of about 70m and fires pellets at about 100m per second. They were sighting it in the driveway using a target placed at about knee height.

During the afternoon while Phelps’ partner was out doing an errand, he was caring for the two-year-old at home, and the twins then arrived home. The eight-year-olds were intrigued by the gun and had turns firing it at the target.

At one point, one of the boys ran through the line of fire and was hit on the legs by a pellet fired by Phelps. The other boy then went through the firing line several times as Zuppicich fired. He was hit four times.

When police interviewed Phelps, he explained what had happened, but was remorseful and said it was a stupid thing to do. Zuppicich acknowledged his own stupidity and admitted the facts.

Police sought an order for the destruction of the airgun.

Defence counsel for Phelps, Michelle Barrell, and Zuppicich, Linda Drummond, suggested that the pair could be convicted and ordered to pay reparations to the boys.

Ms Barrell said: “Phelps is in an ongoing relationship with the mother. I believe he has probably had his own form of restorative justice within the home. He acknowledges it was stupid and careless and he is thankful it was only some bruising on the children’s legs. He realises it was very dangerous for the children.”

Judge McAuslan accepted the suggestion, but said the reparation had to be a “meaningful sum”.

“It was fortunate that more damage wasn’t sustained,” she said, imposing convictions and ordering both men to pay $250 to each boy – a combined total of $1000 in emotional harm reparations.

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