Paintball skirmishes are moving from the fields and woods of America’s suburbs into the streets of some U.S. cities, wreaking havoc in the form of property damage, injuries and, in some cases, escalating to deadly violence involving guns that shoot bullets instead of balls of paint.
Hundreds of paintball attacks have been recently reported in multiple cities, including Milwaukee, Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, and Greensboro. In Milwaukee alone, police responded to 65 incidents of people getting shot by paintballs over a recent five-day period, Sgt. Melissa Franckowiak of the Milwaukee Police Department said at a news conference on Monday.
The paintball “wars” have been linked by police in several of the cities to a movement known as “paintballs up, guns down” or “guns down, paintballs up.” The campaign was started by hip-hop artists, namely Atlanta-based rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, also known as 21 Savage, according to CBS 46.
During the news conference, Franckowiak also attributed Milwaukee’s uptick to 21 Savage.
“He started the movement in an effort to stop the shootings in the inner cities,” she said. “It’s kind of morphed into something other than what he anticipated, I think. Now these kids have been shooting unsuspecting citizens as opposed to their friends during these paintball wars.”
While the “wars” encourage people to trade deadly bullets for paintballs, police say the air-powered weapons are dangerous, especially if a person is shot in the face or eyes. Paintballs can be fired at speeds of up to 300 feet per second, Franckowiak said.
Two shooting deaths by people retaliating with real guns over paintball attacks have also been linked to paintball-related incidents, police said. In one a three-year-old boy was killed, the Washington Post reports.