Police: 'Senior assassin' prank leaves Kansas teen shot by angry father, paralyzed

Updated

A social media trend had severe consequences for a young man who was allegedly shot by another teenager's father in Kansas last month.

Eighteen-year-old Anakin Zehring was shot in the back at a Walmart parking lot after participating in the "senior assassin" prank trend on May 11, according to an affidavit in Sedgwick County court obtained by USA TODAY on Wednesday. The bullet left Zehring paralyzed from the waist down and he has since undergone four surgeries, according to a GoFundMe page for his family.

Ruben Marcus Contreras, a man in his late 40s and the father of a 17-year-old girl at the scene, was arrested and charged with attempted murder in the shooting, which happened in the Wichita suburb of Goddard.

As part of the game − in which high school seniors use water guns to eliminate each other − Zehring was driving with two teen friends, one of whom yelled, "I’m your senior assassin," and shot a gel blaster at Contreras' daughter, the affidavit stated.

Contreras' daughter was with her boyfriend at the time. The boyfriend later told officials that neither of them knew who the teenagers were and that when confronted, one of the boys insulted the boyfriend and shouted profanities, the affidavit says. The boyfriend then called Contreras, telling him that his daughter had been shot with a gel blaster and that the teens said they were "trying to beat him up."

A shopper pushes a cart through the parking lot of a Walmart.
A shopper pushes a cart through the parking lot of a Walmart.

Contreras allegedly shot through car's back window

Contreras soon arrived at the scene and headed toward the car "in an angry matter," a Walmart employee told police, according to the affidavit.

Contreras is accused of then pulling a gun from his waistband and shooting one round through the back window of the teenagers' car, hitting Zehring in the back, one of the boys inside the car told police. Zehring said he then lost feeling in his legs and he crashed the car into a pole in the parking lot "because he didn't want to hit anyone."

When a bystander asked what happened, Contreras said that "they shot my daughter" multiple times, according to the affidavit.

The bystander then removed his shirt to stop the bleeding from Zehring's wound. Authorities found Zehring screaming in pain and saying he lost movement in his legs.

Contreras' attorney did not return USA TODAY's request for comment Wednesday.

Mother says teen's life took 'dramatic turn'

Zehring's mother, Kenly Zehring, said that her son faces long challenging road to recovery that requires extensive physical therapy, occupational therapy and skilled nursing care, according to the GoFundMe page. In an update posted Wednesday, she said the doctor told her "everything is looking good."

"My son is a vibrant young man with a bright future. However, his life took a dramatic turn on that fateful day," Kenly Zehring wrote. "Since the incident, he has endured unimaginable pain and hardship, yet his spirit remains unbroken."

His father, Jeremy Zehring, said that his son is "paying the ultimate price" and doesn't know whether he will be able to work at their family-run electrical company, according to the HuffPost. He said that no parent should endure the "devastating situation" they're experiencing.

"I know he wished he could change back things," Jeremy Zehring told the outlet.

What is 'senior assassin'?

Police, educators and state officials have warned against the "senior assassin" social media trend, arguing that it's dangerous and someone could easily mistake a toy gun for a real one.

High school seniors usually use water, paintball or airsoft guns for the game, and videos are uploaded to social media platforms like TikTokYouTube and Instagram.

A Florida high school principal sent out a video to parents warning them of the trend's dangers, asserting that any student participating in it on school grounds would face suspension, reported Florida Today, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Police in several Chicago suburbs have sent out alerts about the growing trend, WMAQ-TV reported, saying that there have been "concerning incidents," including kids wearing ski masks and carrying fake weapons that look real.

Contributing: Emilee Coblentz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Teen shot in parking lot, left paralyzed after 'senior assassin' prank

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