Paintball Problems: Nationwide increase in incidents reaches Grand Rapids

Posted at 10:29 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 22:29:13-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Rapids Police are warning the public about a dangerous new social media trend causing a surge in paintball wars. Police say there have been dozens of incidents in the past few weeks.

The challenge was started by a musical artist from Atlanta and is now popping up across the country with homes and cars being hit. Sgt. Cathy Williams from the Grand Rapids Police Department says while it may seem harmless, it's not and someone has already been injured because of it.

"This is something that's kind of a trend right now," said Sgt. Williams.

In less than two weeks, the department has received nearly two dozen reports involving paintball wars or paintball guns.

"Since about April 28, we've had about two dozen incidents that involve paintball guns, whether that's shooting at each other, shooting at other vehicles, at houses causing damage, and we've even had one where they've shot at a person and injured them," said Williams.

Williams said it likely started as a harmless prank, but has evolved.

"We believe this is intended to be something that is supposed to be fun and just pranking each other, but really there are other consequences and we want them to be aware of that because ultimately there could be injury and we want to prevent that obviously," said Williams.

The string likely has stemmed from a campaign started by Atlanta rapper 21 Savage called 'Guns Down, Paintballs Up.' Its original intent was an anti-gun violence message, but it's now evolved into a dangerous one.

Cities like Milwaukee, Cleveland and Atlanta have also been dealing with similar issues with more than 100 incidents reported between the three cities. Police in Wisconsin say aside from property and crime concerns this could also lead to deaths.

"There's a potential for you to be shot and killed by something thinking you're robbing them," said Sgt. Melissa Franckowiak from the Milwaukee Police Department.

"It's really spreading across Michigan and even the country, so this is something that a lot of communities are facing right now. It’s going viral, it’s on social media, so a lot of people are picking up on this trend and participating in their instances of having very bad outcomes from it," said Williams. "A perfect example is the driver of a moped was struck as well as his passenger, they were both struck in the head. Fortunately they didn't crash, however it's very likely that a bicyclist or a motorcyclist or a driver of a vehicle is struck, it could cause a crash."

Williams says if you shoot a paintball gun at someone who's not willingly participating, that's felonious assault. The Kent County Prosecutor's Office has agreed to charge those that shoot at a person with a 93 day misdemeanor.

If you think you're a victim or might have information about the suspects, contact Grand Rapids Police.