SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Police sought Wednesday to determine who was responsible for a two-day spree of paintball-gun attacks on pedestrians in Hillcrest, North Park and Talmadge.
The drive-by assaults, which caused no serious injuries, were committed Monday and Tuesday evenings, possibly by the same small group of assailants, SDPD Detective Gary Hassen said.
One of the earlier incidents, which targeted several men standing outside the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center, is being investigated as a hate crime because one of the perpetrators shouted an epithet about the victims' presumed sexual orientation during the attack, according to Hassen.
The five confirmed victims, all of them men, told police the paintballs appeared to have been shot from inside a dark-colored four-door compact car carrying a group of teenage boys or young men.
On Monday, the assaults took place over a roughly five-minute period starting shortly before 10:30 p.m., Hassen said. They occurred in the 2800 and 3000 blocks of Howard Avenue, and at the LGBT group's headquarters in the 3900 block of Centre Street.
About 10 p.m. Tuesday, a similar attack happened in the 4300 block of 50th Street, according to Hassen.
Investigators also heard unconfirmed accounts of about a half-dozen patrons being pelted by paintballs at a coffeshop in the 5900 block of El Cajon Boulevard on Tuesday evening, but none of the purported victims filed police reports, Hassen said.
The perpetrators potentially could face assault or battery charges, along with a possible hate-crime allegation stemming from the anti-homosexual slur, the detective said.
Those struck by the projectiles -- designed to be fired by people taking part in recreational war games while wearing goggles, helmets, body armor and other protective gear -- suffered welts and bruises, but all of them refused medical treatment, according to police.
Paintball guns can cause serious injuries, since they fire the colored liquid-filled spheres at several hundred feet per second, Hassen said.