Paintball issues arise across downtown Grand Rapids

Courtesy / MLive 
Local police note problem of paintball wars in Grand Rapids

Courtesy / MLive 

Local police note problem of paintball wars in Grand Rapids

James Kilborn

Law enforcement is concerned about a recent city-wide development involving individuals targeting houses, cars and people using paintball guns. These “paintball wars” are on the rise across many cities and pose a troubling issue for community members who wish to keep their neighborhood streets safe. 

Sergeant Cathy Williams of the Grand Rapids Police Department sees these incidents as dangerous and could potentially lead to serious injuries or even death. 

“We had one incident of felonious assault where a paintball shooter shot out of a moving car at a moped, striking both the driver and the passenger in the head,” Williams said. “Obviously, this can be very dangerous due to the likelihood that the moped could crash. This is the concern with a bicycle, a moped or a car.”

Williams says that while incidents have occurred across the city, most have been concentrated in the southeast side of Grand Rapids, south of Fulton St. and South Division Ave. 

Sergeant Jeff Stoll of the Grand Valley Police Department says that while Grand Valley State University has not had any paintball-related incidents, issues regarding Nerf guns and other toy weapons have been recorded in the past. 

“We did have a few suspicious problems a couple years ago related to Nerf guns; they were having a Nerf war,” Stoll said. “It’s kind of a similar concept but loose in terms of connection, but we have not had to deal with that issue when it comes to paintball.” 

Stoll says that one of the greatest dangers of paintball guns lies in their resemblance to real firearms and can lead to dangerous situations between those possessing the paintball guns and those in law enforcement. 

“If you’re using a paintball gun, sometimes it can be hard for us to know that so there can be a lot of unfortunate things that happen related to that,” Stoll said. “It’s not only law enforcement either, it’s the general public that might not be able to distinguish that as well, it really sets up the person using it in a potentially dangerous situation. 

“Choosing to do that and being engaged in that type of activity can really be hazardous because people don’t know the difference, especially in times of acute trauma or stress.” 

Williams encourages those choosing to participate in paintball activities to do so in a safe and responsible manner, as shooting someone who’s not participating in the paintball war will be considered assault and can result in a 93-day misdemeanor. 

“Paintball guns are legal to possess, and we certainly are not trying to discourage a fun and safe pastime for any responsible users,” Williams said. “What we would like to encourage is for those that are choosing to take the message of Atlanta rapper, ’21 Savage’ of ‘Guns Down, Paintball Up’. Driving through town and shooting at random people, houses and cars can have dangerous consequences, not to mention the fear that it could evoke to someone not knowing what is going on. 

“We encourage those wishing to have a paintball war to go to a park or forested area, wear appropriate protective equipment, and have a great time with willing participants.”

Stoll says that mistakes can be mitigated by informing the police department of events, as law enforcement will understand that a paintball event is taking place and will reduce the likelihood of mistakes being made. 

As crime tends to increase during the warmer months, the Grand Rapids Police Department will be mindful of these recent issues and work to end assault and property crime incidents tied to these paintball wars.