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Paintball shooting that targeted highway workers here infuriates Cuomo

Two highway workers were shot in the back with paintballs Friday on the Kensington Expressway, sparking outrage from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who called what happened an "assault."

The incident happened at 8 a.m. on an Olympic Avenue overpass and involved two members of the state Department of Transportation bridge crew, said Susan Surdej, spokeswoman for the DOT.

"The car pulled within six feet of the workers, and four to five paintball shots were fired from the vehicle before it sped away," Surdej said Monday.

Cuomo said State Police are working with local law enforcement to identify the perpetrators and take appropriate action.

"While we are fortunate that neither was seriously harmed, I am disgusted by this flagrant show of disrespect toward our workers and disregard for their safety," Cuomo said in a statement. "The men and women of the Department of Transportation work tirelessly everyday to keep New Yorkers on the move, and they deserve our admiration and respect."

The incident comes on the heels of a spate of paintballing incidents on the West Side, and also one on July 17 in the University District, where a 20-year-old man was robbed by a group of four masked paintballers who shot him repeatedly in the face, Buffalo police reported.

The man told police he was on LaSalle Avenue near Comstock Avenue at around 7 p.m. when four suspects in a white pick-up truck wearing paintball masks approached him.

"Gimme everything you got," one of the robbers said.

The victim turned over his wallet but was still shot numerous times in his face and body, police reported. He suffered bruising, swelling and bleeding to the right side of his face, police said.

Westside residents complained to police about drive-by paintball shootings and passers-by who were struck by paintballers shooting at buildings. Buffalo police made three arrests in the recent  incidents.

"You cannot discharge [paintball guns] in public places in the city," Capt. Jeffrey D. Rinaldo of the Buffalo Police Department previously said.  "You will be charged. If property damage incurs, the charge is criminal mischief. Personal injury results in an assault or reckless endangerment charge, depending on the intent."

Residents who witness anyone firing a paintball gun in a public place are advised to call 911.

State Police, meanwhile, are on the lookout for airsoft guns, said Trooper James O'Callaghan, public information officer.  The guns fire plastic BBs and are powered by battery or compressed CO2, said O'Callaghan.

"They look exactly like a gun, and they're magazine-fed like a real gun," said O'Callaghan. "We haven't had any significant incidents of people using them to commit crimes, but if that weapon was shown in public it could be confused for a real gun."

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