‘Paintball wars’ intended to curb gun violence turn deadly

Police across the US are grappling with a surge in street crime — and at least two deaths — linked to paintball shootings cops believe stem from social media posts made by a rapper trying to curb gun violence.

More than 200 paintball shootings were reported last week in Atlanta, Detroit, Greensboro, North Carolina and Milwaukee, according to the Washington Post.

A pair of deaths in Atlanta and Greensboro have also been linked to the paintball wars.

The spike in the unusual shootings was blamed on Atlanta rapper 21 Savage, the most notable of the hip hop artists who launched a movement called “guns down, paintballs up” encouraging people to swap real guns for the recreational kind.

“He started the movement in an effort to stop the shootings in the inner cities,” Milwaukee Police Department Sgt. Melissa Franckowiak said at a press conference Monday. “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.”

21 SavageGetty Images

Milwaukee recently recorded 65 paintball shootings in just five days.

In Atlanta, 15-year-old Christopher Cullins allegedly opened fire – with a real gun – on a carload of pranksters who assaulted him with paintballs at a gas station on Easter, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

One of his stray bullets struck and killed 3-year-old T’Rhigi Diggs, who was asleep in the backseat of his mother’s SUV as it drove by. Cullins was charged as an adult with murder.

21 Savage, a family friend of the tot, paid for the funeral, the child’s mom told the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Meanwhile, Zyquarius Shalom Quadre Bradley, 19, was found shot to death near his paintball-riddled car in Greensboro April 20. About an hour before the fatal shooting, cops confiscated paintball guns from him, Fox 8 reported.

“We strongly believe that these activities led to the death of a young man,” Capt. Nathaniel Davis said.

Greensboro police responded to 39 paintball-related calls in April, ranging from assault to vandalism.

“This is not safe and this is not something that’s acceptable,” Davis said. “There’s a family that’s lost the life of a young person and that continues to bother me. It bothers me personally as a man in this community that another young man has lost his life. And so with that we want to make sure people understand the seriousness of what’s going on.”

Police in other cities are cracking down on paintball guns, saying arrests and felony charges are possible.

“It appears that this is being promoted as some type of game on social media, but this is certainly not something we consider a game,” Atlanta Police Department Sgt. John Chafee told CBS 46. “If we catch people engaging in this type of activity they’re going to be arrested. It’s against the law to discharge any time of air gun inside the city limits.”

He said shooting a paintball gun at a moving vehicle can be considered a felony.

Paintball attacks have also been on the rise in Detroit, where police received 95 complaints in a week.

“If you want to work with us to stop the violence, there are a number of things we can work on together,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said last Friday at a press conference. “But having paintball wars across the city is not the way to do it.”

He added, “The big concern I have is what if someone mistakes that replica paintball gun for a real weapon. They look like a real weapon, especially from a distance.”

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