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Helicopter gun play alarms residents

CHARLESTOWN -- Police dispatch received a call reporting a low-flying helicopter with armed individuals hanging out firing high-powered weapons in the area of Narrow Lane at about 3 p.m. Sunday,

Police said the weapons being fired were semi-automatic rifles and pistols, legally registered to nine men involved in a Sunday afternoon get-together at a gravel bank at 60 Narrow Lane.

Charlestown police have now enlisted the help of the Federal Aviation Administration in Boston and Washington, as well as the state attorney general’s office and Rhode Island State Police in their investigation into the activity in which the shooters used a junked vehicle at a gravel bank for target practice.

A homeowner in the area, concerned about the safety of his family, was one of several who called after seeing the helicopter and hearing rapid gunfire.

When police arrived on the scene, the helicopter, piloted by Dean Francis Scalera, 53, of 151 Biscuit City Road, Charlestown, had landed in the gravel bank. Police said they also saw a pickup truck with a “large amount of handguns and rifles” in the back. A group of target-shooters were gathered around the truck, said police.

Sgt. Philip B. Gingerella Sr. asked Scalera why “he thought it was a good idea to perform this type of activity with large neighborhoods on both sides of a gravel bank.” Police said Scalera told them he believed the helicopter was being flown low enough to be safe and he “knows of pilots in other areas who have done the same thing.”

“In Rhode Island?” asked Gingerella.

“No, Texas,” Scalera said, according to police.

“This is Rhode Island, not Texas,” Gingerella told the pilot, according to the police report. Scalera said he keeps his helicopter at Richmond Airport and did not file any flight plans because he is not required to.

Gingerella said those involved in the incident were cooperative.

Although Chief Jeffrey Allen expressed concern regarding the type of activity, he said regarding Rhode Island General Law, it appears the men had done nothing wrong. He said they were on private property in an area that spans about 80 acres.

“The helicopter does bring another level of concern to our department,” he said. He said, beyond the FAA’s possible intervention, the department, which has dealt with calls about the use of firearms in that area before, has filed no charges.

“I think they put themselves in a harmful situation,” Allen said of the men crowded into a small helicopter.

Nine weapons were checked, including four semi-automatic pistols, four semi-automatic rifles and a pump-action shotgun.

Also involved in the incident: Jonathan L, Smith, 33, 60 Narrow Lane, Charlestown; Jordan M. Dolock, 38 East Quail Run, Charlestown; Jordan E. Carlson, 27, 18B Lady Slipper Drive, Charlestown; Brett Taraska, 28, 232 Yagoo Valley Road, Exeter; David Vevante, 55, of Boca Raton, Fla.; Stephen Scalera, 26, of Boca Raton, Fla.; Samuel Scalera, 23, of Boca Raton, Fla.; and Mark J. Cozzolino, 31, of 7 David St., Westerly.

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