Paintball Shooting Sends Man To Hospital

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Wally Davis of Payson, who has been blind in his left eye since birth, was nearly blinded in his right eye Monday by a paintball shot from a passing truck.

Davis was standing in his driveway on the Tonto Apache Reservation Monday afternoon when a white pickup drove past his house, Payson police officer John Heflen said.

Davis said he heard a loud pop and a yellow paintball hit the right lens of his glasses, smashing the frame into his face and splattering paint into his right eye, the officer said.

Davis' glasses, which held up under the force of the paintball, protected his eye from serious injury, said Emergency Department Manager Bernice Gurd of Payson Regional Medical Center, where Davis sought treatment.

"He was really lucky," she said. "A direct hit definitely could have blinded him in his good eye."

The paintball left Davis with a bloodshot eye, but no other injuries. He declined to comment on the incident.

Police arrested a 16-year-old Payson boy Tuesday in connection with the shooting.

He has not yet been charged, but will likely face charges of assault, Heflen said.

This is just the latest in a year-long string of paintball attacks on people, cars, businesses and homes, Payson Police Sgt. Tom Tieman said.

"I think we're seeing more of this because paintball guns are more available now," he said. "Parents are buying them for their kids on birthdays and other holidays. But they're just like BB guns or slingshots. They're dangerous. You can put an eye out."

The Oaks Restaurant is one of the latest businesses to be splattered with paintballs.

The sign in front of the restaurant was shot with a yellow paintball from a passing car earlier this month, restaurant cook Cliff Poleyquiva said. Restaurant owner Jack Etter was standing nearby when it happened, so the fresh paint wiped off easily, he said.

Teen-agers must be 18 years old to purchase paint guns and 16 years old to buy paintballs, said a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, one of the stores that sells paintball guns and paintballs. According to the packaging, paintballs are non-toxic and easy to clean up. They can, however, damage property and hurt people, Tieman said.

"Anyone who buys a paint gun should read the instructions carefully," Gurd said. "They're not to be pointed at anything human -- anything with a pulse that isn't wearing protective gear.

"Paint guns are not harmless toys. They're the modern-day equivalent of the Red Rider BB gun."

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