People in Toronto are now shooting each other with pellet guns for TikTok clout
Police in York Region are warning members of the public this week about a "dangerous social media trend" that encourages people — predominantly kids and teens — to shoot random strangers with pellet guns.
The so-called "Orbeez challenge" takes its name from the bead-like projectiles being used as ammo in this strange phenomenon; Orbeez is the brand name of a popular sensory gel bead toy that expands in water, from a tiny pellet into what retailers call a "squishy, fun and wacky water bead."
While Orbeez are quite pliable on their own in a bowl, where they usually exist for kids to mush their hands around in, they are not meant to be blasted from an airsoft gun.
"These beads can cause serious injury when fired from an air-powered gun," wrote York Regional Police (YRP) in a news release on Tuesday. "Firing gel pellet guns can cause serious injury and suspects will be charged with serious offences, including assault with a weapon."
Shot last night by a teen as I walked from supermarket. Thankful glasses protected my eyes. Police called, arrested shooter. This is dumbass stupid #OrbeezChallenge https://t.co/pADg62yVm0— Greg Bruce (@GregBruce) May 15, 2022
In the past week alone, Toronto Police and York Regional Police have announced no less than five charges against teens related to pellet guns.
A 15-year-old boy was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon in Toronto on Monday, May 30, after police were called to a school at Bloor Street West and Dundas Street West around 12:45 p.m.
The Toronto Police Service says that a 17-year-old girl was taken to hospital with a non-life-threatening injury after being shot with a pellet gun inside the school.
Later that same day, just after 4 p.m., police responded to another school shooting call in the Lawrence Avenue West and Pine Street Area.
Police say that a 15-year-old boy was shot in the head and arm with a pellet gun on school property. Two boys, one 15 and one 17, were located nearby a short time later with pellet guns in their possession and now face various charges including assault with a weapon, uttering threats and carrying a concealed weapon.
"Both these occurrences are currently being investigated separately and officers are asking if anyone witnessed these events take place, or has any information to contact police," reads a media release.
On Tuesday, investigators with the York Regional Police #4 District Criminal Investigations Bureau announced charges related to two separate assault with a weapon occurrences in Vaughan.
"On Monday, May 2, 2022, at approximately 6:35 p.m., York Regional Police responded to a weapons call at a park located in the area of Sunset Ridge and Kistler Street. When officers arrived, they learned that a male youth fired a gel pellet gun at a group of youths, causing minor injuries to two victims," say police.
"On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, around 2:45 p.m., a group of students were walking on Shawbridge Boulevard when a black Jeep approached the students and a male suspect from inside the vehicle fired a gel pellet gun at the students, causing one victim to be hit in the head, causing minor injuries."
Latest TikTok #OrbeezChallenge is to shoot random people with a gel or pellet gun while filming the attack.— K-12 School Shooting Database (@K12ssdb) March 17, 2022
This has implications for #schoolsafety due to popularity of these challenges with teens and doing challenges with their friends at school.#socialmedia #teens #schools pic.twitter.com/e0JtdrLR0W
Getting hit with anything fired from a pellet gun is no joke — it can really hurt, leaving behind huge welts and in some cases causing disability or even death.
Equally terrifying is what can happen to the people who are playing around with these guns — many of which look a lot like actual assault rifles — in public.
"In many instances, these air guns are painted to resemble real firearms," say YRP officials. "Police responding to these weapons calls are often in the position of having to make quick decisions on whether the weapon is real, a toy or a replica, which could have significant consequences."
A 27-year-old man was shot dead by police in Toronto last Thursday after it was reported that someone with a rifle was walking in the area of several schools, which immediately went into lockdown.
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said last week that officers had been called to the Port Union area of Scarborough for reports of a person with a gun and that they were "confronted" by the man in question.
It was only after the man had been shot dead that police determined he was holding a pellet gun. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is still investigating.
University of Ottawa criminology professor Michael Kempa told CBC News in the wake of the incident last week that police in Canada actually encounter people with pellet guns regularly these days.
"There's more or less about two to three incidents a month across the country, which is a small proportion of total police responses, but still a fairly reliable occurrence," he said.
"These weapons, BB guns, pellet guns and real guns all look quite similar. You can really only tell by looking directly down the barrel in terms of how they're shaped."
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