The gun was fake, but the felony charge filed against a 10-year-old boy was very real.
The man followed the bewildered boys, who ran into a grandparent’s nearby home in Colorado Springs. Video captured by a Ring doorbell camera shows the man yelling at an adult who answered the door.
“I don’t know what kind of gun it is. It was some kind of gun,” the unnamed driver shouted.
“Would you like to watch your mouth, please?” someone said from inside the home.
“How about this?” the man continued to yell. “How about I call the [expletive] cops?”
Minutes later, El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies handcuffed Gavin, who was 10 years old at the time. Officers escorted Gavin to a booking center, where he was fingerprinted and had a mug shot taken. Then, the boy was charged with a felony for menacing.
“I was, at the time, very scared,” Gavin told KXRM.
Seven months later, Gavin’s family made the story of his arrest and prosecution public, after successfully expunging the charge from the boy’s criminal record.
Gavin’s parents, Chris and Stefanie Carpenter, hired a lawyer and tried to persuade the district attorney to drop the case.
“It was just a hard no,” Chris Carpenter told KXRM. “The DA was not going to throw this out.”
Instead, Gavin entered a diversion program that required him to complete community service hours and submit his grades for the court to review, but it also allowed him to erase the charge from his criminal record if he completed the program.
The sheriff’s office and 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office both declined to speak with local media about a case involving a juvenile, but the sheriff’s office told a Colorado TV station that incidents involving a toy gun could lead to a serious criminal charge.
“There are times when it would be appropriate to charge menacing when a toy gun is involved,” a spokesperson for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office told KOAA News5. “If someone knowingly places someone in fear of serious bodily injury or death, menacing would be appropriate.”
The sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday.
Stefanie Carpenter told her son’s side of the story on Facebook last week, one day after the charge was formally removed from the boy’s record.
“Right now we are trying to install faith back into Gavin that you can trust law enforcement, because after all of this he’s scared to death of them,” she wrote.
Gavin said he and his friend were pretending to be in their favorite video game, the wildly popular “Fortnite,” which is a cartoonish “battle royal” in which players choose a character — perhaps a walking banana in a tuxedo, or a buff cat named Meowscles — build a shelter, and fight to be the last man standing.
“We both love the game ‘Fortnite,’” Gavin told KXRM.
The boys walked to the street corner and aimed a bright orange Nerf crossbow and a toy rifle with an orange plastic tip at cars as they passed, imagining them to be enemies within the game. Both toys were broken, Gavin told KXRM, and the boys were not firing the foam projectiles that usually shoot out of Nerf guns.
But one driver mistakenly thought Gavin had a BB gun aimed at his vehicle, KRDO reported.
“I knew I did something wrong,” Gavin told KXRM, “but I don’t think I should have got arrested and taken in a car with handcuffs on and taken to a place to get mug shots and my fingerprints.”
His mother said she shared the story on Facebook to warn other parents who might allow their kids to play with toy guns without realizing the possible consequences.
“I couldn’t believe they were following through with this,” she told KRDO. “I was waiting for the call from the cops saying that they were going to let this go, warn them, tell them it was wrong.”
On Facebook, the mother said her family is eager to move away from Colorado Springs when her husband, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army, is stationed at another post in about three months.
“I can’t live in a state where my kids can’t be kids and play outside without being scared of being arrested,” she wrote on Facebook.