By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE - Boys playing ball on Conduit Street Sunday night found a loaded handgun police think a criminal tossed more than a week earlier after firing shots at officers.
The Walther P22 handgun with a loaded magazine was found at 9 p.m. Sunday by the three boys, ages 13, 14 and 15. The gun’s safety was in the off position, meaning it was ready to fire, according to a police report.
Police believe the gun may have been tossed in an overgrowth of brush and weeds in front of 4 Conduit St. after shots were fired at police officers on Sunday, June 16.
Then, police followed a speeding car that crashed at Knox and Tobey streets, which is less than a block from 4 Conduit St.
The vehicle matched the description of a car “that had fired gun shots” moments earlier that night. After the car crashed and came to rest, it’s driver, Michael Realejo, jumped out and “appeared to fire a gun at them multiple times,” Sgt. Shawn Quaglietta wrote in his report.
Sgt. Michael Mangan and Officer Christopher Bussey found Realejo hiding directly across from 4 Conduit St., hiding next to a big tree in a backyard. The officers did not find a gun on Realejo or in the area, however.
Realejo, 25, of 208 Willow St., Lawrence was arrested and charged with assault with intent to murder with a firearm, assault by means of a dangerous weapon, reckless driving, refusal to stop for a police officer, speeding and leaving the scene of an accident. He may now face additional illegal firearm charges if DNA and ballistics testing matches the handgun found to him.
“We believe it very well may be the weapon he used,” Police Chief John Romero said.
Sunday night, the boys playing on Conduit Street told officers the ball ended up in the overgrown grass and weeds. One boy went to fetch the ball and found the loaded gun in the overgrowth. He, his friends and two adults all touched the handgun. “All parties at that time were somewhat unsure if this firearm was real,” Quaglietta wrote. One boy’s parents took the gun up to their apartment and contacted police.
The gun was slightly rusty in some spots and had a white discoloration in another spot.
“It should be noted that some of the rust spots on the gun could be from the fact that it had rained for the past several days while the gun was laying outside exposed to the elements,” Quaglietta wrote.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.