Maryland police warn of new social media challenge

Police are warning parents about a potentially dangerous social media challenge that’s gaining popularity in Maryland.

It’s called the Splat Gun Challenge: The person taking the challenge makes a video of themselves shooting water-soaked Orbeez pellets, from battery-powered guns, at unsuspecting people.

“We’ve had several situations in the county where kids, student-aged children, adults, walking on the sidewalk, have been targeted and shot with these,” said Lt. Jason Deater, with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, “It scares people because they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know what they’re being hit with right away.”

He said the impact is less than that of a paintball, but the pellets can still do damage, especially if they hit sensitive areas such as eyes and ears.

So far, police are aware of five of these type of shooting incidents in the county. The city of Frederick has also dealt with some.

Deater said he also worries some of the kids taking the challenge could be hurt by the person they target.

“You target the wrong individual who thinks they might be getting shot at, or are, and they might deploy their own force,” Deater said. “We don’t want to see an incident that hurts anyone in the community.”

It’s also a crime. Charges filed will differ by the specific situation, but at the least, it could be second-degree assault, a misdemeanor in Maryland. That’s if there’s no injury. There’s also a possibility of destruction of property charges if clothes or items are damaged. Other possible charges include disorderly conduct and malicious destruction of property, and there could be civil court consequences.

Deater recommends parents keep an eye on their kids’ social media activity.

“TikTok is pretty popular amongst the teenage population and young adults,” Deater said. “Look at what they’re doing on their phones.”

He said he checks his daughter’s phone regularly.

“I want to see what she’s looking at, who she’s talking with,” he said. ”And you might start seeing some of these videos related to these challenges that they might be watching on TikTok or other social media platforms. Don’t be afraid to have that conversation with your child about the dangers of these challenges.”

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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