SINGAPORE — When water guns failed to keep pigeons away from his flat, a man turned to shooting metal ball bearings at them with a catapult.
Unfortunately, his ammunition landed on a convoy of vehicles belonging to groomsmen and bridesmaids who had been engaged in “gate-crashing” games in the vicinity.
On the morning of 1 July 2017, a few bridesmaids heard loud bangs and two men involved in the event found holes on the rear windscreens of their vehicles. One of them called the police.
Samuel Tan Joo Soon, 53, was jailed three weeks on Wednesday (9 September) after pleading guilty to one count of committing a rash act endangering the safety of others.
Interest in catapults
The court heard that Tan bought a wooden catapult in 2008 and used it to shoot stones at birds that nested in the trees around his unit. He also taught his daughter how to use the catapult. When the catapult lost its elasticity, he stopped using it.
Afterwards, Tan developed an interest in toys that were able to fire projectiles after watching videos of catapults on YouTube. He watched videos on how to improve his aim and learned that these items were illegal in Singapore.
He later bought a remote-controlled pellet-shooting tank package from Funan Mall and would bring it out to play on a grass field. He even shot the pellets at himself to test out the impact and observed that the plastic pellets caused him pain.
In 2016, becoming annoyed at the pigeons that would defecate on his window ledges and air conditioner compressor, Tan would chase them away using water guns. However, he felt that this method had become inadequate as the pigeons would usually return.
The next year, Tan decided to replace the elastic band on his catapult and bought one online. While browsing, he also found a post selling 8mm metal ball bearings and bought two packets.
When the items arrived in a few weeks, Tan went to a park to try shooting at trees to improve his accuracy. As his aim improved, Tan began shooting at pigeons that flew onto his air-conditioner compressor. This caused the pigeons to cluster at an opposite block’s ledge instead.
Tan then went on to shoot the pigeons clustering at the opposite block. He said he was careful to shoot at pigeons against the backdrop of a wall, which made him feel that he would not damage property or injure anyone in the process.
Projectile analysis used
On 1 July 2017, between 6.44am and 7am, a convoy of five vehicles were parked along the service road below Tan’s block for a wedding “gate-crashing” event. As the groomsmen and bridesmaids played their games, they laughed and cheered loudly – although Tan claimed the noise had not bothered him.
At about 7.15am, some of the bridesmaids heard a few loud bang sounds while at the void deck, but were unable to determine the source.
Tan admitted to having shot at pigeons from his daughter’s bedroom window around that time but did not know if the banging sounds were caused by him. As no one had gone over to check on the cars, he assumed that the sounds had not been caused by him.
When two of the men returned to their vehicles, they discovered the damage done to their rear windscreens and that there were dents near the rear of their vehicles. The police were alerted and seized the 12 metal ball bearings at the scene.
Although unable to locate the shooter, the police were able to narrow down the unit from which the ball bearings could have been fired with the help of a projectile analysis from the Health Sciences Authority.
On 18 July 2017, at about 8.30pm, police officers searched Tan’s unit and discovered a toy pellet-shooting tank and a packet of 8mm metal ball bearings. They also seized the wooden catapult, a packet of elastic rubber bands, and plastic pellets.
“It was only then that the accused told the officers that he had used a catapult to shoot at birds from his daughter’s room. The accused was then arrested,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En.
As a result of his actions, Tan caused $2,459.78 in damages. He has paid $490 in compensation while the rest was borne by the insurance company of the victim.
Tan’s lawyer Edmund Nathan said that his client had not intended to hurt anyone with his actions.
“His preoccupation was the pigeons and nothing else,” said Nathan, who added that the damage to the car was brought on by the victims as they had parked at a side road not intended for parking.
Nathan sought a community-based sentence, arguing that his client had an unblemished record and had given up his job to look after his elderly mother.
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