ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Ponte Vedra High School officials are encouraging students to stop participating in a highly-organized game called “assassin” after St. Johns County deputies said some of the participants took it to “potentially dangerous levels" this week.
At first, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office didn’t know what was going on Monday afternoon after school got out at Ponte Vedra High, but the “chaos” was the result of the “assassin" game getting a bit out of hand.
Deputies said the game had more than 300 participants, divided into 64 teams. Three chairmen created rules and bylaws, and then the students set out to knock each other off with squirt guns, water balloons and Nerf guns.
But deputies said some of the students took the game to “potentially dangerous levels.” The Sheriff’s Office said it received calls about students, some of whom were wearing camouflage gear, shooting at each other from speeding cars, driving through neighborhoods and chasing each other. Some of the water and Nerf guns were even made to look realistic.
“Only a small percent of people do that. I think only one team did that," said one student who plans to continue playing the game “with a lot of carefulness.”
At least one homeowner was so alarmed, according to the Sheriff’s Office, he got his real gun to investigate, but, fortunately, he figured out it was just the game afoot.
“Given the fact that this game began yesterday, the number of reports received by SJSO is staggering,” school officials said in a letter sent Tuesday to parents, urging students to stop participating in the game that’s set to go on for the next three months.
A surveillance photo provided to News4Jax captured two people dressed in camo outside a Ponte Vedra Beach home this week. Laura Burk, who lives next door, said the strangers startled her neighbors before they learned that they were students.
“I heard panicked voices," Burk said. "I like kids having fun and creating games, but when it gets out of control and they scare my neighbor to death, then it has gotten a little out of control.”
A possible reason for the overenthusiasm: cash prizes. The members of the winning team will get more than $600.
One parent told News4Jax the game is just kids being kids, and she actually bought her son a water gun for the game.
“In my opinion, it’s an innocent teenage game involving toy water guns,” she said.
The chairmen sent a message to the participants to follow the rules and tone it down, in addition to the letter that the high school sent to parents.
Dear Shark Families:
In conversations with the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office (SJSO) today, we are very concerned over an organized game that we understand will continue over the course of the next three months. We are referring to a game called “assassin” and it has been reported that more than 300 students are participating. Local law enforcement has received reports of Ponte Vedra HS students engaging in reckless driving, blocking streets, driving on private property, crashing through fences, etc. Law enforcement also relayed that, in one instance, a property owner, not aware of this game or his/her student’s participation, prepared to arm and defend himself/herself when students entered the property.
There is a high potential for things to go tragically wrong. We have also come to understand that there is a significant financial reward for the winning team, a driving incentive behind this aggressive behavior. We have yet to experience this game on campus, which would be dealt with in accordance with the district’s Student Code of Conduct. Students are engaging in this game off campus and after school hours, NOT during the school day on school property. Given the fact that this game began yesterday, the number of reports received by SJSO is staggering.
It would be devastating if one or more of our students is hurt or worse from something that is completely avoidable. The PVHS administration strongly recommends that students forgo their participation in this game and behavior. We appreciate your time and attention to this matter as well as your continued support.
On Wednesday, Marsh Landing also sent out a notice to residents about the game, encouraging them to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-824-8304 to report any reckless behavior by high schoolers.