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Schools locked down, students arrested

Four Sunnyside High School students caused a lot of havoc yesterday (Thursday) after shooting paintballs at some people working in a field.

Just after 11 a.m. a weapons offense call was made to the Yakima County Sheriff's Office. The caller told deputies shots were fired from a gray vehicle that drove by a field in the area of Murray and Wendell-Phillips roads.

On their way to the call, shared Lt. Max James, deputies were informed Sunnyside police were also dispatched to the call.

A witness to the incident was following the suspect vehicle, which led him down various county roads before a Sunnyside police officer spotted the two vehicles on Yakima Valley Highway.

The Sunnyside police after being informed the vehicle was heading in the direction of Outlook notified the Sunnyside School District and asked the district to place Outlook Elementary School on a lockdown, according to Community Relations Coordinator Curtis Campbell.

The Sunnyside officer pursued the suspect vehicle on Yakima Valley Highway.

Sunnyside police again called the Sunnyside School District and requested all schools be locked down because the suspects were traveling in the direction of the city, according to Campbell.

The vehicle led police to first Maple Grove Road and then Outlook Road before it finally stopped.

The witness that had been following the suspect vehicle also stopped to provide police with an account of the incident, according to James.

"The Sunnyside police conducted a felony stop," he said, noting a weapon was involved and authorities must take precautionary steps for safety purposes.

Yakima County Sheriff Sgt. Michael Russell arrived on the scene and helped secure the four occupants located inside the suspect vehicle, James said.

Russell spoke with the witness, who said he had been working in a field on Murray Road near his residence. The suspect vehicle, a 2000 silver Lincoln LS, pulled up and the witness heard two gunshots, according to the witness. The vehicle proceeded down the roadway, but came back and the witness told Russell he heard three gunshots after seeing what appeared to be a rifle.

"The victim said he was afraid for his safety and the safety of the other workers in the field. He believed they were being shot at," James stated.

All four suspects located inside the vehicle are students at Sunnyside High School. The driver, a 17-year-old male juvenile, was transported to the Sunnyside Police Department for questioning, and a 17-year-old female juvenile was also taken into custody.

The female indicated to police that the gun had been thrown from the vehicle shortly before the driver stopped for police. The gun was recovered and discovered to be a paintball gun.

Deputies, according to James, recovered paintballs and paintball canisters from the suspect vehicle.

The two other passengers, an 18-year-old male and 17-year-old female, were released.

"The youngsters said they decided to skip school for some fun...they decided to shoot people in fields," shared James.

Campbell said the schools were notified when the teens were in custody and were taken out of lockdown.

The two suspects taken into custody have been placed on emergency expulsion by the school district. The sheriff's office is considering charges of unlawful display of a weapon for the two teens.

The two suspects released by the sheriff's office are not facing criminal charges, but the school district has placed them on a five-day suspension.

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