Judge scolds 2 men allegedly caught with paintball gun in car. ‘(Police) don’t know if what they’re seeing is a real firearm ... and it’d just get worse from there.’

William Lee, Chicago Tribune

A Cook County judge lectured two young men Monday about the possible deadly consequences they faced when Chicago police stopped their car last week and said they spotted the long barrel of a gun inside.

It turned out to be an unloaded paintball gun.

“(The officers) don’t know what these weapons are,” Circuit Judge David R. Navarro told the men during an afternoon bail hearing broadcast on YouTube. “They don’t know if ... what they’re seeing is a real firearm or a paintball gun, and it’d just get worse from there.”

As officers ordered the men and a third person out of a silver Nissan, a 53-year-old man approached and said he’d just been shot with three paintballs by one of the passengers, according to prosecutors.

The alleged shooter, David Cox, 20, and the driver, Deonte Gibson, 18 — high school graduates with clean records who still live with their parents — each face a charge of aggravated battery/deadly weapon, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The third person in the car, a juvenile not identified in court, was cited for reckless conduct in juvenile court.

Prosecutors gave no indication whether they believed the incident in the 8100 block of South Troy Street in the Wrightwood neighborhood was an isolated case, or whether it was related to a rash of paintball shootings in neighborhoods across the city that has left dozens injured.

The judge placed Cox and Gibson on electronic house arrest if they post bail.

Monday’s case against Cox and Gibson are the only felonies brought since police began beefing up patrols to crack down on paintball attacks from Streeterville to West Englewood.

Heading into Halloween, Chicago police officers conducting a mission on the West Side arrested six people on Friday in the Ogden police district, which covers Little Village and Lawndale.

The rise in attacks recently led emergency medical officials from the University of Chicago Medicine to sound the alarm to the public about the permanent damage a high-speed projectile can cause to the eyes.

Among those injured was George Morales, 44, a Southwest Side man who lost sight in his left eye after a paintball attack last week in Little Village. “I turned around and saw a white car parked right in front of me. I saw two guys in the car,” Morales said, adding they looked to be in their early 30s. One pointed a long gun that looked like a real gun.

Following the arrests, Harrison Area Deputy Chief Ernest Cato said detectives were working to link the arrests to the recent attacks.

However, police released the six suspects on Saturday without charges, according to a Chicago police spokeswoman. The status of that case is unclear.

Both Cox and Gibson are scheduled to return to court Nov. 9.

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