Original Article – Police have charged a 12-year-old boy in North Carolina with armed robbery following an incident also involving his 6-year-old brother.

The incident took place at the Coffey Creek Apartment complex in Southwest Charlotte on Sunday morning. Captain Jason Helton of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) said that the two boys approached a woman asking to use her phone to contact their mother. Once they had it, however, they took off running.

The woman pursued the children to get her phone back, but when confronted, the 12-year-old allegedly pointed what appeared to be a handgun in her face and attempted to pistol whip her with it. Following that altercation, the boys fled to a neighboring apartment complex.

Upon receiving a report about the incident, the CMPD contacted the boys’ mother, with whom the department was reportedly familiar due to past criminal incidents, according to a statement provided to Newsweek.

When confronted by police later, the 6-year-old brother showed the weapon that had been used, which turned out to be a BB gun that resembled a real handgun.

“Detectives were able to quickly locate and speak with the mother of the juveniles,” the statement read. “She was cooperative and allowed officers into her home to search for the handgun believed to be used in the robbery.”

Helton explained that the department was spotlighting this case, despite it not involving a real gun, due to the potential violence that might have occurred if the adult victim had been armed.

“Let me paint a picture for you: What would’ve happened if that female would’ve been armed? We could be dealing with something really, really tragic here,” Helton said.

“Officers are dealing with juveniles every single day. Property crimes, violent crimes. And when I say juveniles, I mean kids—I mean ages 11, 12, 13, 14 years old—and it seems like they just keep getting younger and younger.”

The 12-year-old boy has been charged with armed robbery and damage to property. Helton said that authorities view the younger brother as another victim in the incident.

“You have to look at that 6-year-old as a victim,” he said. “He’s a victim of his circumstances and environment, right?”

The incident in Charlotte comes on the heels of numerous deadly incidents across the country that have seen minor happenings escalate to gun violence.

In April, a 20-year-old woman in upstate New York, Kaylin Gillis, was shot and killed after a man, Kevin Monahan, opened fire on a vehicle she was in after she and her friends pulled into his driveway by mistake while looking for a friend’s house.

Monahan is charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.

Two days earlier, a 16-year-old boy was shot by a homeowner in Kansas City, Missouri, after approaching the wrong home while looking for the place where his younger brothers were staying with friends. The teen, Ralph Yarl, sustained serious injuries but survived.

The suspect, Andrew Lester, has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action and has pleaded not guilty. He is next scheduled to appear in court on June 1.

Observers have argued that the widespread presence of firearms in the United States has led to these mundane encounters being escalated to violence.

Helton further urged parents to be more aware of what their children are doing, including on social media. The 12-year-old had reportedly posed with the BB gun in a social media post days prior to the incident.