Timothy Wilks: Tennessee Man Shot Dead in ‘Prank’ for YouTube Video

Crime scene tape

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Nashville police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred on Friday night during a robbery “prank” for a YouTube video. According to police, Timothy Wilks, 20, was shot and killed in the parking lot of Urban Air indoor trampoline park on Friday evening in Nashville, Tennessee, NBC News reported.

When officers responded to the scene, David Starnes Jr., 23, admitted to shooting Wilks in self-defense, the outlet wrote. Witnesses told investigators that Wilks and his friend, who has not been named, were taking part in a “prank” robbery filming content for a YouTube video, the New York Post reported.

According to witnesses, Wilks and his friend were wielding butcher knives and approached a group of people, including Starnes. Starnes told officers he did not know Wilks and was unaware the situation was a prank and shot Wilks to defend himself and his group of people.

An Investigation Is Ongoing But Police Have Not Charged Anyone in Wilks’ Death to Date

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said on Saturday that an investigation is ongoing but no one has been charged at this time, including Starnes, NBC News reported. Authorities did not provide more information about Wilks’ friend who was present at the time of the shooting or whether they suffered injuries in the shooting. They also did not confirm whether Starnes had a gun permit.

According to WZTV, Wilks and his friend ran at the group with knives so they could capture on video the scared expressions of the strangers. A lawyer told the outlet, “I’m sure the people involved would like to characterize this as a prank. But it certainly seems to be a prank that went seriously awry,” and said Wilks’ friend could potentially face charges.

YouTube Has Not Addressed the Incident But the Platform Has a Policy Against Harmful or Dangerous Content

According to its policies, YouTube does not allow creators to post content “that encourages dangerous or illegal activities that risk serious physical harm or death.” The policy specifically mentions “dangerous or threatening pranks” that can lead victims to fear for their immediate safety. It states, “Tricking others into believing they’re in real danger, even if no physical harm comes to them. This includes: Threats with weapons.”

It’s not the first time a dangerous prank for a YouTube video has gone wrong, with a 22-year-old man getting fatally shot by his girlfriend in Minnesota in 2017. Pedro Ruiz was planning a YouTube stunt and told his girlfriend to shoot a .50 caliber handgun at his chest while he held up a book that they believed would stop the bullet. Instead, Ruiz was shot and killed and his girlfriend charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, the New York Post reported.

In another, non-fatal incident last year, a group of teenagers decided to prank one of the group’s mother. Three of the young men put on ski masks and pretended to rob the woman, holding an airsoft gun against her head, Inquirer reported. The woman’s son, who was part of the prank, then pretended to fight off the robbers, all while filming the situation for a YouTube video.

However, the 40-year-old woman escaped and ran away, which led her 17-year-old son to contact the authorities. He told the 911 operator, “I just did a fake robbery prank on my mom and she ran. I know she called the police. She’s nowhere to be found.” The woman’s son and his three friends all faced charges, the outlet wrote.

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