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Viral “senior assassin” game causing concern among police departments

(NewsNation) — Police across the country are issuing warnings around a new social media game called the “senior assassin challenge,” saying the toy water guns used in the game could be mistaken for real firearms which has already caused panic in several cities.

As high schoolers enter their final stretch of the school year, many are partaking in a game going viral on TikTok involving the use of water guns. 

While meant to be harmless, these incidents have turned chaotic in several cities with police bringing attention to the dangers of the game if not played responsibly. 

In many instances, teens dressed in dark clothing attack from hidden places prompting fear among bystanders who are not aware that the attack is part of a game. 

What is the ‘senior assassin’ game?

The “senior assassins” game has gone viral across the country on social media among teens. 

In the game, students separate into teams and shoot each other with water guns. 

Players get assigned a random target they must “tag” to “eliminate” and then post their “hit” on an app, according to the social media videos explaining the game.

Those who “hit” the most people without getting tagged themselves come out on top.  

The rules of the game vary by location. In some cases, rules say that the game cannot be played during school hours or on school property. 

 Videos of the “hits” have been posted on social media, including on TikTok.  

In many reports, teens are dressed in dark clothing and hoodies with hoods up to emulate a real attack, which has alarmed bystanders.

Concerning incidents from the ‘senior assassin’ game

Several incidents spurring from the “senior assassin” challenge have prompted concern from law enforcement. 

Police in San Mateo, California, said they responded to calls involving numerous teens with “guns” around Hillsdale Shopping Center last month, reported KNTV.

 Shoppers who did not know about the game were terrified, they said. 

“Police are detaining teens and locating these fake ‘firearms’ now,” the San Mateo police department said, reported KNTV.

“The guns aren’t real, but could easily be mistaken for one, especially if modified to disguise colorful toy markings with black paint,” Jeanine Luna, a police spokesperson said. 

“We don’t want anybody to get injured or lose their life for playing a game,” Luna also said.

Several Chicago area police departments have also reported chaotic incidents stemming from the game. 

In Gurnee, a suburb north of Chicago, a group of high school students from another suburb entered a restaurant wearing ski masks and holding water guns that police said resembled firearms, reported WMAQ. 

“They were targeting other students who were dining in the restaurant and attempting to spray them with water,” police said, reported the outlet. “An adult, who was a concealed carry holder, in the restaurant mistook the situation for a genuine threat, and the situation could have escalated quickly. The gravity of the situation cannot be emphasized enough; it had the potential to lead to serious consequences.”

Police in Bartlett, another Chicago suburb, said they have gotten reports of teens who are playing the game driving on lawns and brandishing water guns that looked like realistic-looking handguns.

This caused concern for responding officers since they were unable to tell whether the participating students were committing actual crimes or simply playing a game, an alert stated. 

Officers in nearby suburbs have responded to 911 calls made by residents concerned about people wearing masks or hoodies lurking around homes or suspicious vehicles driving around neighborhoods, the Bartlett police said. 

In Spanish Fort, Alabama, which sits ten miles east of Mobile, police chief John Barber said several residents called after seeing what they perceived as a gunman, reported WPMI. 

“We don’t know what that’s about so we try to make a traffic stop and we end up in a car chase last year. Turns out it was seniors trying to do the senior assassin game, ended up in a car chase, bailing out of the vehicle,” he said.

“Again, we don’t know what we’re dealing with until we finally took them into custody and we go, wow, look where this went from a harmless game to a car chase to running from the police for what?”

What police are saying about the ‘senior assassin’ game?  

Police have issued formal warnings and advisories to those partaking in the “senior assassin” game as well as to the general public. 

In Arlington Heights and Bartlett, both Chicago area suburbs, police have set rules for the game. 

Their rules specify the activity cannot take place during school hours or on school property and prohibits trespassing or other illegal activities, alerts in these cities have stated. 

“The concept is not against the law or a local ordinance. We ask everyone to play safely, use common sense and recognize how players’ actions may be perceived by members of the community,” Arlington Heights police wrote in their alert, reported WMAQ.

“The unintentional result of participants running throughout the community with a water gun, some often resembling a look-alike firearm, could have deadly consequences.”

Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department in Pennsylvania said the “behavior, though intentionally innocent, could easily be perceived, reported, or confronted as suspicious behavior by unknowing persons and outcomes could have serious consequences,” in a post, reported by the York Daily Record

Authorities told residents to be aware of the game. 

“When police officers respond to suspicious person calls, they most always engage in the unknown. When encountering a person in the dark, who is wearing dark clothing, and carrying what appears to be a firearm requires an appropriate response. … Determining the intentions of the ‘suspect’ and the difference between a real firearm and a replica water gun at that moment can be life-altering.”

In San Mateo, police are asking residents for assistance “to help end this game,” reported KNTV. 

“We don’t want anybody to get injured or lose their life for playing a game,” Luna said.

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