Hurling snowballs is a winter pastime for some kids, but for a 13-year-old Chicago boy it’s become a felony offense.
Chicago police say a 13-year-old boy was arrested and charged with a felony for throwing a snowball at a police officer after a West Side elementary school let out Wednesday afternoon.
The eighth-grader, who is facing a felony charge of battery to a police officer, told the Tribune he was wrongly picked out of a crowd of kids throwing snowballs, further claiming the ball didn’t strike the cop.
“He (the officer) said the snowball hit him but it hit the car, not him,” the boy, who is a minor and was not named, told the Tribune.
The officer was sitting in a marked squad car at the time of the incident. After the snowball came from the crowd of about 15 kids, the boy and his mother said a nearby security guard and the school’s dean singled him out.
Meanwhile, several nearby residents have criticized the police’s response as overly harsh, with lingering questions as to how a felony charge for an apparent prank may come back to haunt the juvenile.
Latanya Powell, a construction worker on the block, told DNAinfo Chicago the charge was “ridiculous.”
“It’s just going overboard,” Powell said. ”I can see if it were a weapon and harm was done, but it was just a snowball. This is a case of kids being kids.”
Ray Fields, an educator who lives on the block disagreed, saying an arrest could help the boy change his ways.
“If [the boy] had gotten away with it, who’s to say what they’d do next? If it doesn’t stick to them now, they’ll be 16 or 17, and they’ll have a gun,” Fields told DNAinfo.
On top of the felony charge, the boy has been suspended from school for five days. Police confirmed the boy has no gang affiliations or arrest record; he’s due in juvenile court on March 12.
Chicago isn’t the only place where police come down hard on snowball throwers.
In 2010, five young Bronx men were arrested after a cop claimed the group “bombarded” him with snowballs, according to the New York Daily News. The men later filed a $10 million false arrest suit against New York City and won; the city ultimately settled with the men, paying them each $60,000 earlier in February.