If anyone asked, the two girls had been instructed to describe their wounds as bug bites. But when staff at a Buffalo, New York, medical clinic examined the children, ages 4 and 6, on Saturday, they discovered that the children’s so-called bug bites were apparently inflicted by a BB gun.
Erie County police have arrested the girls’ stepfather, 29-year-old Steven Scroger, for allegedly punishing the children by shooting them multiple times with a BB gun. Scroger, who police say might have also hit the girls with a stick, faces two felony charges of assaulting a minor under seven years old, two misdemeanor charges of criminal weapon possession, and three of acting in a manner injurious to a child.
“I can’t say an exact number of times that they were hit with BBs, but it was a lot,” Erie County Sheriff’s Capt. Gregory Savage during a Tuesday press conference. “Probably one of the most serious cases we’ve seen of child endangerment and child abuse recently here, and blatant.”
Scroger told the girls to keep their injuries secret, or to describe them as bug bites, police say. But the girls’ biological father grew suspicious of the distinctive wounds, taking the children to a medical center where staff called the police.
BB guns, which run on compressed air rather than explosive gunpowder, are usually non-lethal. But the guns can fire steel balls up to 1,000 feet per second, making them potential killers at close range. In 2013, a Florida boy accidentally shot his 10-year-old brother to death with a BB gun. In 2014, a different child used a BB gun to shoot and kill a Virginia 4-year-old.
Police say Scroger admitted to shooting the girls with a BB gun, which was recovered at his home. According to Savage, the girls’ BB wounds appear to have been inflicted on two occasions, close together, but that Scroger might have beaten them with a stick during another incident.
“It did appear there was some other punishment inflicted on these girls, possibly with a stick,” Savage said on Tuesday. “It didn’t appear that they had any serious injuries from that. I think what really stood out was the BB wounds.”
Also of concern to police was Scroger’s third child, a 1-year-old baby who did not appear to have been abused. All three children have been removed from their home and resettled with relatives while police deliberate on whether to charge the girls’ mother.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that in this day and age that anyone would do what this guy did and think that at some point it was not going to be discovered and reported and investigated,” Savage said.