By Beck Vass
At least 14 people have been shot by teenagers who went on an eight-day driveby rampage with an airgun in Mount Maunganui.
Eight people were shot yesterday including 65-year-old woman Fran Tomkins, a 70-year-old man walking with his grandson and a man and woman sitting at a cafe.
At least seven others were shot in earlier incidents since March 1.
Police say it was lucky those shot were not seriously injured by the air gun pellets, and the offenders placed themselves at high risk as responding police were armed with real pistols.
Mrs Tompkins, a Mount Maunganui semi-retiree, told the Bay of Plenty Times that she was walking along Hinau St to meet her mother at Malyon House rest home when she felt a "sharp pain" in her hip.
"I can only sort of describe it as four times a bee sting," she said. "The skin's not broken but there was quite a red mark."
Mrs Tomkins looked up when she heard laughter and realised she had been shot. She called police.
While Mrs Tomkins said she was fine, she was "appalled" by what could have happened if an elderly person from the rest home had been shot, or if a child had been hit.
"They could have got such a fright that they fell over and broke a hip," she said.
Police said other victims reported receiving "painful welts" from the injuries, with one woman describing the pain as "excruciating".
Yesterday's spree sparked an armed police alert and officers arrested four teenagers in the Bayfair area.
Mount Maunganui field officer Constable Wayne Lambert said police received at least six reports of shootings yesterday in which eight people were shot but police believed there were more victims.
He said police armed with Glock pistols searched the teenagers' car due to the potential risk the firearms posed.
Mr Lambert said people using imitation firearms did not realise they put themselves and members of the public at risk.
"It's a danger for them coming across us. We treat them as if they are real.
"The police patrol that did stop them was armed and they conducted an armed weapon stop.
"If these guys are going to use guns, we have to use firearms to deal with them as well. If they point firearms at the police, they are obviously going to be in danger."
Police recovered two BB-guns and pellets from the car, he said.
Senior Sergeant Glenn Saunders of Tauranga police said he was "horrified" by the shootings, which come after a spate of air gun shootings around the city late last year.
"As police officers we're still very concerned about the actions of these people regardless of whether they [the guns] are real or not.
"They can cause serious injury and we emphasise that within the bounds of the Arms Act, BB-guns and air guns are firearms."
Mr Saunders warned that police would prosecute offenders firing air guns, an offence which could earn up to four years in jail.
"We take a dim view of it. It's totally unacceptable and we will take a very hard line.
"If a pellet hits someone in an eye, you know, you can only think of the consequences. I'm not saying that death is a likely or possible outcome but the right place at the right time ... the mind boggles as to the potential outcomes," Mr Saunders said.
"We're horrified at it and we'll be taking appropriate action."
Detective Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow of Mount Maunganui CIB said two 16-year-old boys were referred to police Youth Aid after being arrested yesterday.
Two 17-year-olds are due to appear in Tauranga District Court on Wednesday on charges relating to the unlawful use and discharge of a firearm.
Police believed further charges were likely as other victims came forward.
"At this stage there could be up to a dozen people so the final numbers and what they [the offenders] will actually face will be determined by next Wednesday."
Police would like to hear from anyone who believes they were shot, or shot at, in the Mount Maunganui area yesterday. Ph 575 3143.
* Airgun attacks this month:
Yesterday: 9.55am, Oceanbeach Rd: A 45-year-old man is shot while mowing his lawn. 10.40am, Hinau St: Fran Tomkins, 65, is shot in the hip while walking. 12.30pm, The Mall in Pilot Bay: a middle-aged jogger is shot in the back. 2pm, Maunganui Rd/Tweed St: a postie is shot. 2pm, Oceanbeach Rd: A 19-year-old man is shot in this left thigh and his 70-year-old grandfather is shot in the lower back. 2.15pm, Maunganui Rd: a man and a woman are shot while having coffee at a cafe.
March 1-7: A postie is shot with an air gun on March 1. There are about six more reports in the following week.
By Beck Vass