More than 200 paintball shootings were reported in one week in late April 2018 alone in cities throughout the country – including Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Greensboro – as police wrestle with what started as a social media trend. Paintball wars have already led to some deaths (including of 3-year-old T’Rhigi Diggs, above) and injuries.
“Paintballs Up, Guns Down” is the mantra that started it all, and the movement is supposed to stop gun violence by replacing bullets with paintballs. However, police are starting to make arrests, concerned about property damage, injury, and the potential that people could mistake paintball guns for real weapons.
According to CBS News, there were 65 paintball shootings in one four-day period alone in April 2018 throughout the United States. In some communities, paintballing is proving far from harmless.
Who started paintball wars? 21 Savage, an Atlanta rapper also known as Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is credited with igniting the wars. “I understand this has been a growing trend around the nation,” the Detroit police chief said in a news conference.
Where are paintball wars happening? Are they occurring near you? Here’s a roundup:
In Detroit, police have started arresting people involved in paintball wars. Davon R. Williams, 22, of Detroit, is accused of shooting a paintball at a police squad car. He’s charged “with assault and propelling an object at a passenger vehicle,” according to Click2Detroit.
The police chief, James Craig, said in a news conference that the paintball wars were “misguided.” He called the paintball wars “well-intentioned,” but said they cause “bad outcomes,” including property damage, injuries, and “finally, the one that concerns me most… I’m calling them replica firearms. When you look at some of these firearms, they look like an actual firearms.” The police chief said he’s worried officers and citizens might mistakenly believe the paintball guns are real guns and respond with deadly force.
Paintball war videos fill YouTube.
“Stop. Don’t do it,” said the police chief, adding that six people were arrested as part of the crackdown on paintball wars. On April 27, the police chief said 95 calls for service were received in Detroit about paintball wars. “This paint up, guns down is not a good idea. It’s not a good idea at all,” said the chief, adding that the squad car was hit 11 times.
The Milwaukee Police Department issued a warning on paintball shootings on April 30, 2018. “The Milwaukee Police Department is warning citizens following a recent increase in paintball shootings across the City,” police wrote on their website. “Since late last week, MPD has responded to dozens of calls where individuals have been shooting paintballs at citizens. The incidents are not isolated and have occurred on Milwaukee’s West Side, South Side, North Side, and Northwest Side.”
The police noted: “It’s believed these paintball shootings likely stemmed from postings on social media. Online news reports highlight similar incidents across the country. At this time, there have not been any reports of serious injuries locally and investigators believe that multiple suspects and multiple vehicles are involved in these crimes. Those arrested could face severe, criminal charges.”
WISN-TV’s Nick Bohr reported that there had been 65 bystanders hit by paintballs in Milwaukee in less than a week.
Greensboro & Charlotte, North Carolina
A death was tied to paintball wars in Greensboro, North Carolina. Zyquarius Shalom Quadre Bradley, 19, of Greensboro, N.C., “was shot and killed April 20. His body was found next to a car that was covered in paintball splats,” USA Today reported.
Police believe the slaying is linked to paintball wars, and they also received dozens of calls about paintballs in the city in April 2018.
According to Journal Now, the paintballing has caused other problems in North Carolina communities. “A 2-year-old girl in Charlotte is in therapy after being pelted nine times by paintballs in her front yard while her mother unloaded groceries from a vehicle,” the newspaper reported. “And a woman in Gaston County was shot by a paintball gun in the neck.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department fielded more than 150 calls about paintball wars since 2018 started.
T’Rhigi Diggs, who was only 3, died in Atlanta as a result of paintball wars, authorities say. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the teen who allegedly killed Diggs “was shooting a handgun at people who’d assaulted him with paintballs.” The boy was not the intended target. Christopher Cullins, 15, is the accused.
There have also been paintball wars reported in Decatur, Illinois, Jacksonville, Florida, Madison, Wisconsin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and other communities.