A playground argument over a marker Sunday night led to the mayor of Derry Borough pointing a gun at four children in a park, according to state police.
Kevin M. Gross, 38, took a loaded revolver to the park near his Broad Street home just before 8:30 p.m. after his son was involved in a “scrape” with other boys, Trooper Steve Limani said.
Gross is accused of pointing the weapon at a 15-year-old boy and three girls — a 12-year-old and two 14-year-olds — before residents nearby intervened, he said.
“I think that the mere presence of the adult would have been sufficient, and I think that’s the course of conduct that the majority of people would have taken in a situation like that,” Limani said.
Gross was being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment and reckless endangerment charges. His bail was set at $20,000.
Police said Gross ordered the teenage boy to the ground at gunpoint. He is accused of demanding the girls put their cellphones and belongings down while pointing the weapon at them.
“The juvenile male victim related he was only feet away from the defendant with the gun pointed directly at him,” police reported in court paperwork.
The boy was trying to get a marker back from one of the other children when the scuffle occurred, Limani said. One of the children had a minor scrape on their arm.
Limani called Gross’ alleged response reckless and “over the top.”
“It was very scary for all of them and alarming and concerning that someone would act in that type of regard,” he said.
Several neighbors heard commotion at the park and calmed the children and Gross until police arrived, resident Paul Luna said.
“It was scary for the kid; I felt bad for him,” Luna said. “Come on, you don’t do that. Why did he do it? He has to answer up to what he did.”
Residents did a good job of defusing the situation, Limani said. Both he and Luna expressed relief it didn’t escalate.
“I don’t know what was going through his mind,” Luna said.
Gross had holstered his weapon by the time state police arrived, according to court papers. The gun was surrendered to police. Gross admitted to pointing it at the boy, authorities said.
He was elected mayor in 2017 with 98% of the votes, according to county election records. He did not have an opponent. It was unclear whether he was appointed or elected to the position before. A Tribune-Review story from November 2016 identifies him as the borough mayor.
Gross has no criminal history in Pennsylvania, according to online court records. He did not have an attorney listed in online court records. An April 24 preliminary hearing is set.
Borough solicitor Lee Demosky declined to comment. Borough council President Chad Fabian did not return a message.