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TOOELE — A TikTok challenge involving Orbeez beads and airsoft guns made its way to Tooele High School this week, prompting Tooele County School District officials to issue a warning that these incidents won't be tolerated and are being referred to police.
"We have had multiple incidents at the high school level of students bringing the airsoft guns into school and shooting them at teachers and students," the school district said, adding that the incidents are being investigated by Tooele police and the Tooele County Sheriff's Office.
Police in Vernal also recently identified two teenagers suspected of shooting several people with beads from airsoft guns from a moving vehicle on Monday, and said they were looking for more suspects. Orbeez are small absorbent beads that grow in water.
"Orbeez guns project a small diameter 'orb' projectile, and are accurate for a substantial distance," Vernal police wrote on Facebook. "Though marketed as a toy, the projectiles are capable of inflicting injury, and firing one at a person is a crime."
Tooele Police Lt. Jeremy Hansen told KSL.com on Thursday that there were three incidents at Tooele High school specifically. He said that it was these incidents that prompted the police department to initiate communication from the school district to parents.
"There were three incidents, and each was taken case-by-case," Hansen said. "In one incident, a girl's arm was grazed with a pellet, another was between students who were aiming at each other, and the other involved a teacher who was hit with a projectile by a student."
Hansen said that the challenge is called the "Orbeez airsoft gun challenge," and said the guns the students used did not resemble real guns, but they are still taking the matter seriously.
"We know that these were toy guns, but they can hurt people," Hansen said. "The guns that were used did not resemble real guns, (they actually look more like Nerf guns) but there are some that look more like actual airsoft guns/real guns. That's the problem, though, and why we want to put a stop to it if we can."
Tooele County School District officials said that "this type of behavior is not tolerated and is considered a safe schools violation," and can result in suspension and referrals to juvenile court.
"We ask parents and guardians to speak with their students about the consequences and potential dangers of participating in these types of games/challenges," the statement read. "Weapons of any kind are not allowed on school property."
In another recent incident, middle school students walking home were hit with Orbeez pellets in a drive-by incident on Jan. 24 in Richfield.
Richfield police are also concerned about the danger of toy guns being misidentified by civilians or police officers.
"You might have someone who returns fire," Richfield Police Chief Trent Lloyd told the Richfield Reaper. "It's deadly serious."