SILVER SPRING, Md. - Police have arrested a Montgomery County high school student for a string of pellet gun shooting incidents that took place in January.
There have been a rash of BB and pellet gun shootings over the past few months in Montgomery County, but for the most part, detectives have had little information to go on.
But on Wednesday, Montgomery County police charged 18-year-old Tyler Neal at Paint Branch High School where he attends as a student. Police say school officials found a pellet gun in his backpack.
Police were able to connect him to six pellet gun shootings in the Briggs Chaney area thanks to surveillance video taken from inside a store at a shopping center on Outlet Drive in Silver Spring.
In the video, the suspect appears to maneuver as if he is part of a tactical operation with his pellet gun up and ready at times. After making his way through the store, police said Neal walked outside and shot two women in their 30s with a pellet gun in the parking lot.
"The store doesn't believe anything was stolen," said Montgomery County Police Officer Toreno Herbert. "I'm unsure what type of fantasies or what was going through the suspect's mind at the time to have him want to use that weapon to assault people with because pellet guns are still very dangerous and they hurt and leave scars and injure people."
This all happened following another pellet gun shooting just a few minutes earlier at a nearby neighborhood on Aldora Circle. Police said Neal shot a 41-year-old man in the arm who was standing outside of his home loading items into his vehicle.
Police believe Neal then made his way out of the neighborhood to Briggs Chaney Road and then the shopping center less than a mile away where it appears he may have entered one of the stores through the loading area.
Neal has been charged for the six incidents that have taken place over the past two weeks. He is facing charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, dangerous weapon on school property and felony malicious destruction of property.
Police are looking into whether Neal is connected to any other cases.
Back in November, four cars had their windows shot out by a BB gun along Interstate 270 and there have been a number of other similar incidents in Silver Spring and Germantown.
None of victims were seriously injured during these pellet gun incidents Neal has been arrested for. Police said on Jan. 17, the suspect shot out the window of a car driving along Briggs Chaney Road. In another incident on Jan. 23, a man was shot in the cheek as he was pumping gasoline at an Exxon gas station in the same shopping center. Police said Neal could have cause an accident or seriously injured the man had he been hit in the eye or a sensitive area.
Police want people to know that this is not a game.
"When you are walking around with something that looks like a real firearm, the consequences are major and it could change people's lives in an instant," said Officer Herbert.