On Friday, March 19, Casey-Quinn Kooistra, a young mother, saw something out of the corner of her eye as she drove down historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz on her way to work. “I thought to myself, ‘No, that’s not what you think it is,’ but then decided I needed to make sure,” she recounts. Kooistra backed up, got out of her car and saw what she believed to be a handgun in the middle of the street. “I don’t know anything about guns,” she admitted. “I didn’t know if it was a BB gun or one of those Airsoft guns or something more dangerous.”
These thoughts were going through her mind as she was on the phone with the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) dispatcher. “I was thinking that I might embarrass myself, but after I got off the phone with dispatch, a jogger was coming down the street and I saw him look at it too. ‘Do you think that’s real?’ I asked him, and he said, ‘That’s a 38-caliber gun and it’s fully loaded.’”
According to Kooistra, the jogger wanted to move the gun from the middle of the road so that a “car didn’t hit it and have it accidentally go off.” The gun was lying just north of the intersection of Huguenot Street and Mulberry Street by the entrance of the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary, a heavily trafficked local public preserve. “A woman and her two kids were walking right towards us, and I cautioned her that there was a loaded gun and she thanked me and took them the other direction.”
NPPD chief Robert Lucchesi was aware of the incident, concurred that it was a loaded firearm and said that the police “have made contact with the owner.” The chief said that the gun was “not used in a crime or attached to any sort of foul play,” but was a case of someone misplacing or losing their firearm. As to whether or not this person will be able to keep their license, the chief said, “That will be up to the Ulster County Pistol Permit Bureau.”
Kooistra told Hudson Valley One that she found the interaction with the responding officer, Daniel Carpinelli, to be disconcerting. “He was very defensive and kept downplaying it, saying it was just a ‘tool,’ like ‘chefs use knives,’ and that ‘Someone probably just left it on top of their car and drove off and forgot about it,’ which is what I would call negligence and not a normal, everyday activity. Yes, a chef has knives in the kitchen. This is Huguenot Street, next to a public park where there are more people on the street than cars.”
Chief Lucchesi said that he had not had the opportunity to speak with the officer who handled this call, and thus could not make any comment. “We appreciate Ms. Kooistra bringing forward her concerns and will look into them,” said Lucchesi.
Kooistra said that in her estimation, the “important takeaway was for parents or caregivers to talk with their kids about what to do if they ever come across a firearm.”
Chief Lucchesi said that Kooistra did exactly what he would want any resident to do who came across what they believed to be a firearm: call the police.