North Carolina police urge residents not to take ‘potshots’ at Chinese spy balloon

GASTONIA, N.C. — As a suspected spy balloon continues to float over the U.S., one police department in North Carolina is urging residents to use restraint -- and not try to shoot it down.

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“If the now infamous Chinese ‘weather balloon’ makes its way over Gastonia, please don’t call the police to report it,” the Gastonia Police Department wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

Gastonia is located west of Charlotte. The police department told residents that it did not have the capacity to “respond to an altitude” of 60,000 feet to investigate the balloon, adding that federal officials would probably frown if they intervened.

Finally, police asked residents to “please don’t take pot shots at it with your handguns in an attempt to bring it down on your own.”

Pentagon officials on Friday repeated their belief that the Chinese balloon being tracked over the U.S. is “a surveillance balloon” after Chinese officials earlier called it a “civilian airship” used for research.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that the balloon flying in U.S. airspace was “completely an accident,” and was caused by westerly winds knocking it off course, The Washington Post reported.

That was disputed by U.S. officials.

“The fact is, we know that it’s a surveillance balloon, and I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that,” Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a news conference on Friday. “We do know that the balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable.”

Ryder declined to share the exact location of the balloon, which was spotted Thursday over Montana, though he said it was last assessed to be at about 60,000 feet.

Projections show that the balloon could exit the U.S. east coast sometime Saturday morning near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, CNN reported.

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