Updated: 11/23/2012 08:36:46 PM PST
The entrance to SC Village in Chino. The field was used for training by four Inland Empire men who were arrested on suspicion of plotting to join Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan in hopes of killing Americans. ( Micah Escamilla Correspondent)
CHINO – Two of the four Inland Empire men arrested on terrorism-related charges this week may have trained at a paintball park featuring a simulation of the Pakistani town where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
According to FBI documents released this week, Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland, went to an as-yet-unidentified Corona-area paintball/airsoft facility with a confidential informant on Sept. 23.
There, the pair reportedly “selected and rented paintball guns that resembled assault rifles. Santana told the (informant) that he chose that type of weapon so that he could get used to the weight,” the FBI criminal complaint reads in part.
A view of an Arab-themed paintball course is seen on Tuesday at SC Village in Chino. (Micah Escamilla Correspondent)
paintball and airsoft (replica guns that fire non-metallic pellets) course is SC Village Paintball Park, which has a Corona mailing address despite being located in southern Chino, and is owned by Hollywood Sports in Bellflower.
The park has a strong U.S. military flavor, with surplus Army trucks, camouflage netting and replica Army checkpoints decorating the park.
In May 2011, SC Village Paintball Park briefly made headlines when, after bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs, the company spent $250,000 adding SC Viper Field. The airsoft gaming field is designed to look like Abbottabad, the city in Pakistan where bin Laden’s compound was located.
“Our philosophy for the last 30 years, when there’s a conflict around the world, we make a playing map that simulates that just like (video game) `Call of Duty’,” Hollywood Sports co-owner Giovanni D’Egidio said Friday. “We wanted a video game come to life.”
The town features replica buildings, Arabic language signage (including an ad for McDonald’s), and other details intended to allow players to re-create the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
The paintball park also features courses built to resemble Baghdad, Beirut, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait and
other warzones, according its website.
“Right now, the Middle East is popular, so we do the Middle East ones,” D’Egidio said.
Army combat trainer Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Addams decried Hollywood Sports’ simulation of real-world battlefields.
“We train as we fight, and if our war was with Hitler’s army then we would train in German scenarios,” he said. “Places like this are a breeding ground for hatred, which is something we don’t believe in.”
Such simulation is not universal at paintball and airsoft courses.
“Our whole purpose is to have a safe place for kids to paintball,” said Wayne Woodruff, who owns Action Star Games in Colton. His maps don’t resemble real-world battlegrounds. “We want to show kids that war is the stupidest thing in the world and that when you’re done paintballing you can still hang out with your friends. In real war you may not be able to.”
As of Friday afternoon, FBI officials had not yet confirmed the name of the paintball park visited by Deleon and Santana. But Hollywood Sports owns many of the paintball and airsoft parks in the region, according to D’Egidio, making it likely that Deleon, Santana and the FBI informant they played with, were at one of his company’s parks.
“We’ve been doing this for 30 years. If they looked out of the ordinary, we’d report it” to the police, he said.