Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Man, 41, charged with shooting BBs at passing cars, stores
Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012
Lower Southampton police say they’ve figured out who is behind a recent rash of BB shootings at one of Bucks County’s busiest intersections that caused more than $8,500 in damage. But the suspect is not who you might expect.
He is a 41-year-old former assistant manager at an oil change business located on the corner of the intersection of Street Road and Bustleton Pike, police said.
James Nicas, 41, of Glenview Street in Philadelphia, surrendered Thursday on 15 misdemeanor charges, including three counts of propelling missiles at occupied vehicles. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Lower Southampton police say between April 25 and May 11, Nicas allegedly shot BBs that damaged three cars — including an off-duty police officer’s — traveling through or stopped at the intersection. More than 31,000 vehicles pass through there daily, according to PennDOT.
Police also accuse Nicas of causing nearly $5,000 in damage to front windows at two businesses across the street from the Jiffy Lube, from where the crimes were allegedly committed.
The earliest report of BB damage was April 26. A woman told police that she was traveling north on Bustleton Pike attempting a turn onto west Street Road when she heard two sounds like something hit her car.
When she reached her destination, the woman checked her car and found two BBs had been shot into the driver’s door, according to a probable cause affidavit. Damage estimate: $1,178.
On May 10, a Lower Southampton police officer in uniform and on his way to work at the police station was stopped at the intersection on Bustleton Pike when he heard a loud sound against his truck.
At police headquarters, he found someone had shot a BB into the driver’s side of the truck, narrowly missing his head. Damage estimate: $1,074.
The next day, a couple reported that while stopped at the intersection, they heard a “dinging” against the driver’s side of the car. When they reached their destination, they found marks on their car consistent with the impact of a BB or pellet gun, the affidavit said. Damage estimate: $890.
A new target of the BB attacks emerged on May 12. Police responded to a call at Comic Collection, in the 900 block of Bustleton Pike, where an employee reported someone fired eight BBs at the store’s front plate window between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to the affidavit.
The employee also reported that the front windshield of his car was shot three times. The car was parked in front of the comics store facing Bustleton Pike. Damage estimate: $291 for the car, and $2,375 for the window.
The same day employees at Aaron Overhead Doors, which is next door to Comic Collection, discovered seven BB shots had been fired at its front plate glass window. Damage estimate: $2,387.
An investigation into the incidents found that the BBs were most likely fired from the Jiffy Lube. Police obtained a search warrant for the business, said Detective Gerald Scott, who oversaw the investigation.
After interviewing employees, Nicas was developed as a suspect, Scott said. In a May 17 police interview, Nicas confessed to his involvement and turned in a Red Ryder BB gun, one of the weapons used, Scott said. Nicas’ surrender took two months because of the ongoing investigation, Scott said.
Nicas, who police said no longer works at the shop, is on probation for a 2010 burglary and conspiracy conviction in Philadelphia, according to an online criminal records check. He was arraigned Thursday before Lower Southampton District Judge John Waltman and released on $10,000/10 percent bail.
The police investigation into the BB incidents is ongoing as it’s possible other suspects may be involved, Scott said.