An 81-year-old man is charged with terrorizing his Azusa neighbors with a slingshot

An 81-year-old man was arrested for allegedly vandalizing property for a decade.
An 81-year-old man was arrested for allegedly vandalizing property in his neighborhood for a decade. (Azusa Police Department)

The elderly man neighbors in Azusa knew as "Wick" seemed to some residents to be a busybody, but to others he acted like a guardian, taking note of every suspicious behavior in his street and keeping neighbors informed.

So it came as a surprise to many residents of this working-class neighborhood when Azusa police and SWAT officers blocked off streets near North Enid Avenue and Crescent Drive and arrested 81-year-old Prince King.

For about 10 years, police said in a statement, King terrorized the neighborhood by shooting metal ball bearings with a slingshot, breaking house windows, car windshields and nearly striking neighbors themselves. In his house, investigators say, they found ball bearings and a slingshot.

"I never thought he could be doing that," said Neomi Reynoso, a 46-year-old neighbor.

The neighborhood was plagued for years by flying metal ball bearings that shattered windows and struck house walls, she said. Neighbors didn't know who was shooting the ball bearings or for what reason, Reynosa said.

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King was charged last week with seven counts of vandalism. He pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, said a ball bearing came crashing through two windows in his neighborhood about 9 years ago. He didn't think much of it then, until he heard of similar incidents in the same area.

King didn't come out of his home much, the neighbor said, except to mow his lawn or wash his car. Still, the man they knew as "Wick" waved to neighbors and seemed friendly. Once, he said, King saw that he was changing a flat tire on his car and offered to lend him his jack.

Neighbors said they didn't know how King got he nickname "Wick," but it was the name by which some of them knew him since they first moved to the neighborhood.

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If King was behind the vandalism, the neighbor said, he's not sure why he'd do it.

"We never had an argument or anything," he said. "I still can't believe someone that is 80 years old would do this."

About three weeks ago, a piece from his front door panel was broken off, the neighbor said. He thought at first it was old wood, but then found a ball bearing on the ground outside.

Another time, he said, he was outside his door smoking a cigarette when he heard something whiz rapidly by his head. He put out his cigarette and went inside.

King, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, also seemed to be informed about the comings and goings on the block. When a strange car would park on the block, the neighbor said, King would share details of the car.

Once, Reynoso said, King approached her and told her that someone late at night had tried to steal gasoline from her car.

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"He knew everything, a lot of things that were happening around the block," she said.

He sometimes came across as a busybody, she said, but many residents thought he was watching out for the neighborhood.

She was targeted by a ball bearing about eight or nine years ago, she said, but has no idea why.

King sometimes had disagreements with neighbors, she said. He didn't like people parking on his side of the street, she said, and would sometimes block it with his cars or trash cans to keep others from parking there. But nothing seemed to escalate.

Neither King nor his defense attorney could be reached for comment.

During King's court hearing Tuesday, a judge released him on his own recognizance, but he was ordered to stay at least 200 yards away from the homes of identified victims.

The next morning, another neighbor walked out to King's house and placed a sign and a message on the front yard that seemed to be directed at him: "Stay away Wick."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.