BIG BEND -- Police across the country have responded to hundreds of paintball fights in recent weeks, a trend that authorities say began around the time an Atlanta rapper began posting YouTube videos encouraging people to trade real guns for paintball weapons. Milwaukee police this week issued a warning after at least 65 calls about paintball battles over the past week. Meanwhile, it's prompted officials with The Siege Paintball in Big Bend to speak out.
Those at The Siege Paintball said they want people to know the sport can be safe and fun if done the right way, and they said they want what's happening across the country to stop.
Robert Jones, manager, showed FOX6 News the correct way to shoot a paintball gun.
"The whole point of coming out to play paintball is to have a good time," said Jones.
He said he's disheartened by the recent disturbing trend that's muddying a sport he loves.
"To see people take on the paintball community and run its name through the mud is always troubling," said Jones.
Police have not said conclusively what sparked the trend. But in Atlanta, one of the cities where paintball fights were first reported, the calls began near the end of March — around the same time that rapper 21 Savage began posting YouTube videos with the message "Guns Down, Paintballs Up," according to Sgt. John Chafee. In the videos, the rapper and his friends record themselves having "paintball wars" around the city.
On Tuesday, May 1st, FOX6 News told you about a bicyclist struck in the eye by a paintball near 51st and Villard on Monday night.
"There is a potential of you bring shot and possibly killed by someone thinking you are robbing them," said Sgt. Melissa Franckowiak, Milwaukee Police Department.
Jones said the most important thing to do when paintballing is to wear protective gear.
"They cover all the way back behind your ears, your face and a large lens to be able to see through," said Jones.
The paintballs can travel close to 300 feet per second at a speed of up to 200 miles-per-hour. The masks and the vests are a way to ensure the sport is safe.
"This vest protects your front, your back and your neck," said Jones.
He said he wants the attacks to stop, and for people to get back to enjoying paintballing the right way.
"Please play paintball at a paintball field, not in the streets," said Jones.