Cops Say Wave of Public Paintball Wars Started with 21 Savage

The skirmishes have hit the streets of Atlanta, Milwaukee, Greensboro, and Detroit, and have potentially claimed two lives.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
May 2, 2018, 5:39pm
Screenshot from ABC 11.

All it takes is one dingus with a terrible idea to get the country hooked on some new, dumbass craze. Make a joke about eating Tide Pods, and the next thing you know, dozens of people are calling poison control because they swallowed one of them. Snort one condom, and all of a sudden parents are convinced the "Condom Snorting Challenge" is a full-blown thing. Now, it looks like we've got a new inane, dangerous trend sweeping the nation: "paintball wars." And according to the cops, it all started with rapper 21 Savage, somehow.


In cities across the US—Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Charlotte, Greensboro, and beyond—people armed with paintball guns have been shooting at one another in the streets, USA Today reports. They're using everyday obstacles like cars, houses, and trash cans as makeshift bunkers—and unsuspecting citizens are getting caught in the crossfire.

In Milwaukee, cops responded to 65 reports of folks getting hit with paintballs in the last week, according to the Journal Sentinel. Meanwhile, cops in Detroit received 95 paintball-related calls over just one week, and police in Charlotte, North Carolina, have gotten more than 150 calls since January. Cops in Atlanta confiscated more than 7,500 paintball rounds and nine guns when they broke up a war earlier this month.

According to police, the whole fiasco began with none other than 21 Savage, who's credited with starting what's known as "paintballs up, guns down." Apparently, the idea is to cut back on gun violence by encouraging people to mess around with paintball guns instead—but, obviously, it's not working out all that great. Aside from all the houses and cars getting covered in paint, some people are actually getting injured—and according to the cops, the wars might have claimed at least two lives.

"He started the movement in an effort to stop the shootings in the inner cities,” Melissa Franckowiak, a sergeant with the Milwaukee Police Department, said at a news 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."


In early April, a group of paintballers unloaded on a 15-year-old kid at an Atlanta gas station, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Ticked off and covered in paint, he allegedly grabbed a real handgun and fired at the cars that had ambushed him—accidentally striking and killing a three-year-old inside. (21 Savage ended up paying for the funeral.) A few weeks later, police found a 19-year-old in Greensboro shot to death in a car that was splattered with paint, in what police claim was a killing connected to the city's paintball war, FOX 8 reports.

It's not entirely clear if 21 Savage actually coined the phrase "paintballs up, guns down," but he's been flooding social media with footage of himself shooting paintball guns for weeks. One day, he'll be driving around with a car full of the things; the next, he's apparently unloading on Blac Chyna's boyfriend's car, or waging an all-out paintball war outside a club.

Cops across the country have started to crack down on the wars, making at least six arrests in Detroit, four in Charlotte, and issuing a citywide warning in Milwaukee to put a stop to the fights. Hopefully, with enough pressure from the police, this whole paintball war thing will stop injuring innocent people. Though it'll probably just wind down after being replaced with a fad that's even dumber.

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