In an e-mail Thursday to educational leaders in a large swath of the east metro, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi implored adults to intervene now before more students are killed playing Nerf Wars, a rolling version of tag in vehicles that proved deadly in Lakeville last year yet remains "increasingly popular."
Writing to superintendents and principals, Choi said he met with parents from a high school advisory council, and "I learned a lot about what is happening and am concerned that some of these activities are not only dangerous, but also illegal, and could result in serious injuries and/or prosecution."
He added that "the tragedy in Lakeville taught us that what starts as a game can turn deadly in seconds. I am concerned that if we, as adults, don't intervene and educate our students, we could face more tragedies, similar to what happened in Lakeville."
Choi's message about the "increasingly popular, yet highly dangerous, activity amongst our youth" went to every school district in the county. Along with the high schools, some middle schools received it as well "for general awareness," said county attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein. "Our biggest concern is high school students."
In December 2015, "Nerf Wars" played a role in a crash that killed two of four Lakeville South High School students when the pickup truck they were riding in rolled over. About six months later, a crash related to the game left two people seriously injured in New Hope.
A game played by high school students for years, Nerf Wars is routinely banned from school grounds.
In the game, students can be "kidnapped" and taken to locations where they are "shot" with a Nerf gun. Players "shoot" their opponents with the spongy projectiles in an effort to rack up points and ultimately win a pot of money.
Choi said in the e-mail that parents have reported about teens who "have used cars to block other teens; jumped on top of moving vehicles; slashed tires; gotten into car accidents; crawled into homes, garages and/or on roofs without the homeowner's permission, often in the dark and in violation of curfew laws."
Should a resident believe a burglary is in progress, "I am seriously concerned that a homeowner ... could potentially shoot and/or kill such a teen" holding something that resembles a real firearm.
Choi also said he's heard of the "naked rule," which entices students to strip because they are forbidden from being "killed" when naked. Not only does that offer unfortunate social media postings, the county attorney said, there's a risk of prosecution.
In conclusion, Choi invited superintendents and principals to contact one of his community prosecutors for more information or to set up a meeting.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482