There have been 15 cases involving vandalism via BB gun in Columbus during the past two days.
Columbus Police Capt. Todd Thalken said officers responded to eight calls Tuesday and seven more on Wednesday. Primarily, the damage has been focused on vehicle windows, although some structural damage has been reported, he said.
The incidents have been concentrated in the downtown Columbus area, Thalken said. Mainly, the vandals have struck in the central part of downtown. One string of the shooting instances occurred in a short span of time along 15th Street.
Although no injuries have been reported as a result of the BB gun attacks, the damage done has been significant.
“Replacing a car window can cost over $200,” Thalken said. “Altogether, this vandalism could amount to $3,000.”
Individually, the crimes count as Class III Misdemeanors, punishable by three months in jail and a $500 fine. But, a case could be made to take a string of attacks and classify them as a single incident, Thalken said. This could result in an increased charge and much more severe punishment.
In March of 2018, Columbus Police arrested a man responsible for a rash of BB gun vandalism. During a six-week period in January and February 2018, Donald Ziemba Jr. damaged numerous vehicles and was originally charged with more than 30 Class III misdemeanors.
In mid-September, Ziemba was found guilty on 28 charges relating to criminal mischief, disturbing the peace and discharging a firearm/weapon from a highway, and was sentenced to a total of 645 days in the Platte County Jail.
Data from a tracker placed on his vehicle, coupled with surveillance video from crime scenes, identified Ziemba’s SUV as being at crime scenes within moments of shooting reports, police reported, noting this played a contributing factor to his arrest.
The cases from the last two days are still currently under investigation. Law enforcement asks that anyone with information regarding the shootings contact the Columbus Police Department at 402-564-3201, or Crime Stoppers at 402-563-4000. There is up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“People should keep their eyes open downtown,” Thalken said. “If they see a suspicious vehicle, call us. We’re here to help. If something is going on in front of you call 911.”
Jon Burleson is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at Jon. Burleson@lee.net.