Police and school administrators have been warning teenagers for years about the annual tradition of “dart wars” or “nerd wars.” They feared that someone would be hurt.
Now, some Anderson Township residents suspect an actual shooting Monday was related to the game. Police radio traffic recorded on Monday suggests the same.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has released very few details about the incident on Ayers Road which involved a home associated with Bengals running back Joe Mixon. Dispatch records show the minor was hit in the foot by a bullet or bullet fragment and was taken to an area hospital. No arrests have been reported and no names have been released.
Neighbor Tracy Schaeper told Enquirer media partner Fox19 that her son’s friends were outside playing Nerf Wars when she said they went to the Mixon-related property at night of filming. She said she heard about seven real gunshots that night.
Just after 8:30 p.m., a Hamilton County dispatcher, in an archived recording, said someone called 911 from the Ayers Road area and “saw several men and women running in that area… One of them pulled out a gun, ran towards the back of the building, several shots were heard. A man armed with a rifle was seen running, getting into a jeep… Two other vehicles involved… they fled at high speed.
Less than three minutes later, a deputy goes on the radio: “They are juveniles. They are having dart wars. Slow down everyone.”
Warning issued in February
In a parent newsletter sent Feb. 17, Turpin High School principal David Spencer spoke about the dart wars. Turpin is part of the Forest Hills School District along with Anderson High School. Anderson officials confirmed the miner injured Monday was a student there.
Spencer explained that this is a student-led activity that is not sponsored by the school. He said the game could not be played on school grounds or disrupt education in any way.
He encouraged parents to talk to their children about safety. He said gambling led to students hiding around houses, driving recklessly and making dangerous decisions. For the past few years, the sheriff’s office has been called at least once a year about dart wars.
“A lot of Nerf guns and homemade devices look like a real gun to a person who can see from a distance,” Spencer said. “In the world we live in today, this can cause extreme concern and a certain reaction that was not wanted by our young adults.”
What are dart wars?
Spencer explained the game in his newsletter. Students organize teams and collect registration fees. Pairs of teams compete each week, usually in a bracket-style elimination. They shoot each other with the famous foam dart guns to earn points. Entry fees are usually split between the winners or top teams.
The tradition is not specific to Forest Hills. Many students in the area organize games, some dating back nearly 25 years.
In 2016, the Lakota game made headlines for having a dodgy rule: A student couldn’t be shot if that student was naked. The specter of serial miners has led administrators there to label the game “risky” and “dangerous”.
Butler County Police have warned students in 2020 not to take things too seriously. Hamilton Township police reported students dressing all in black and painting their dart guns black to make them look more real.
“Nobody wants anybody to get hurt,” chef Scott Hughes said at the time. “We want you to have fun and enjoy it. Just use a little common sense and have some responsibility.”