Chicago, IL – Chicago is in the midst of a massive spike in paintball ambush attacks, several of which have caused victims to lose their eyesight.
A total of 208 paintball shootings were reported throughout Chicago in the months of September and October – nearly five times the number that were reported from January through August, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) said 120 of those attacks have taken place since Oct. 1.
“The Chicago Police Department has seen an uptick in paintball incidents across the city in the weeks leading up to Halloween,” the CPD told the Chicago Sun-Times in a statement. “Using a paintball gun on an unsuspecting person is not only reckless, but also extremely dangerous. The projectiles can cause serious injuries and the shooter can be charged with a felony.”
The department urged residents to stay vigilant of their surroundings and to contact police if they witness any suspicious activity.
University of Chicago Medicine assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual science Dr. Hassan Shah said that personnel at the University of Chicago Medical Center treated eight paintball shooting victims in a single weekend earlier in October, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“We’ve seen the full spectrum of injuries, from bleeding inside the eye to severe damage where the eye is ruptured, where we cannot repair the eye and may even have to recommend removal of the eye,” Shah explained.
Two other victims with ruptured eyes were treated at Northwestern Medical Center in Streeterville, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Both suffered permanent vision damage due to the attacks.
Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine ophthalmology department chair Nicholas Volpe likened paintballs to BB projectiles, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
He said a paintball is essentially a “BB the size of a marble, going as fast as a BB, so it’s a very heavy object that if it hits your eye, it can be very destructive.”
“It might seem like an innocent way of getting attention or expressing yourself, or not thinking like you’re going to introduce injuries, but if one of these paintballs hits somebody in the eye, it is very likely that it can cause a severe and blinding injury,” Volpe added.
Lake View resident Chris Trani said he was out bicycling in Lincoln Park on Oct. 12 when someone called out to him, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
As he turned towards the voice, he was suddenly hit by a barrage of paintballs – at least one of which pelted him in the forehead, leaving a massive welt.
Other paintballs missed his eyes by mere inches, he said.
The shooter fled in a vehicle before Trani was able to get back onto his feet.
He said the attack caught him completely off-guard and left him afraid and uncomfortable being outside in the city at night, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“You don’t know if this is a drive-by, am I going to die, am I getting shot for real?” he explained.
He said that he reported the incident to the CPD, but that no one has been arrested in connection with the attack.
On Oct. 30, the CPD arrested six people and seized five paintball guns in the 1200-block of South Kildare, WMAQ reported.
Police said they were all released from custody the following day without charges, according to WMAQ.
It is unclear why they were turned loose.
Officers in @ChicagoCAPS10 responded to a call of a group of male offenders shooting at people with paintball guns. Officers arrived took multiple offenders into custody and recovered four paintball guns and numerous amounts of paintballs. #CPDMediaCar @ChiefDavidBrown pic.twitter.com/TpYHqTdILr
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) October 31, 2020
Two more suspects were arrested in the wake of an attack in the Wrightwood neighborhood that took place on Oct. 30, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
According to Cook County prosecutors, a 53-year-old man was walking to work when someone got out of a nearby vehicle and shot at him five or six times.
The victim said that one of the paintballs grazed his ear. He was also struck in his side and elbow, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The unmasked shooter jumped back into the vehicle and the driver sped off, but they were intercepted by police minutes later.
Investigators said they found two pellet guns, a sack of green paintballs, and a paintball gun inside the vehicle.
Police identified the gunman as 20-year-old David Cox.
He and the 18-year-old driver, Deonte Gibson, were both arrested on charges of aggravated battery, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
An unnamed juvenile who was also in the vehicle has been charged with reckless conduct.
The victim of the attack said he had never met Gibson or Cox before, the Chicago Sun-times reported.
The CPD said it is still investigating the rash of shootings, according to WMAQ.