KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee Police Department said it received two reports over the weekend from students who had been shot at with Airsoft or Orbeez pellet pistols from moving vehicles.
The incidents appear to be part of a social media trend, according to officials.
UTPD said the incidents are under investigation as officers work to identify the offenders and seek criminal prosecution.
One incident occurred early Friday as a student and her boyfriend were walking back from Carrick Hall to Massey Hall.
A vehicle drove past and someone inside shot pellets toward them, a report states. The female was hit in the upper eyelid and suffered slight swelling in the eye, the report states.
The second incident happened Friday night, a report states. A student said two males in a white sedan had shot her in the side with a BB gun near the Fred Brown residence hall and then down by West Campus toward Cumberland Avenue, the report states.
"We want to make our students aware that engaging in this type of behavior is a crime. You could be charged with simple assault or a more serious crime should the victim sustain serious bodily injury," UTPD said in a release.
Officials said the City of Knoxville ordinance 19-109 also prohibits the “discharge of air guns, spring guns, etc,” stating it is “unlawful for any person to fire or discharge any air gun or air pistol, spring gun or spring pistol, or other device or firearm which is calculated or intended to propel or project a bullet, pellet, air or similar projectile, within the city.”
"Finally, engaging in this behavior could put you in danger. You may see this as a game but the person at which you’re shooting an Airsoft or Orbeez pellet pistol may perceive your actions as a deadly threat and respond as such," UTPD said.
UTPD said you can call at 865-974-3114 or download the LiveSafe app to access campus services and resources.
Knoxville police also have taken a couple of reports of incidents in recent months, although that doesn't mean they're related to what UTPD is investigating.
According to Knoxville Police Department spokesman Scott Erland, on Oct. 23 several victims reported that suspects drove by and shot them with a pellet gun in the 17th Street/Cumberland Avenue area.
One of the victims told authorities he'd also been assaulted by someone in the suspect vehicle. Police found the vehicle and arrested six young men from the Alcoa and Maryville areas.
Also early Oct. 23, people in a black sedan shot a pellet gun at a 19-year-old woman walking on Cumberland Avenue, according to Erland.
She reported the incident to police on Oct. 27 and didn't want to press charges, according to Erland.
WBIR 10News talked to people who live around The Fort to find out how big of a concern the shootings have become for students and others living in the area.
Jeff Reyriedell said he was coming home from work when he heard the shots.
"I tried to walk up my steps and I started feeling getting hit. I turned around to see what it was and they were firing a BB gun out the window at me several times," Reyriedell said. "It's not funny. You're risking people's safety and you're injuring others. It's not funny at all, it's not a joke, it's not cool."
He said he was shot all over, "all of my face, my arm, my neck, everything." He said he immediately called KPD to report the crime.
But it didn't stop. It happened again four days later.
"Same exact thing happened. I got off work and they just did a drive-by. Multiple kids in the car with BB guns... just firing at me for no reason," Reyriedell said.
It's not just a scary experience, "It's really painful. It's a violent assault. It's bad," he said.
Something that stood out about this incident to him was his vehicle description matched a total stranger's description who lives down the block.
"It's a black four-door sedan," Reyriedell said.
"It was a black, dark car," UT Student Lizzie Brandon said. "I feel like every time I saw a black, dark car, I would be like, 'Is that him?'"
This happened to her about four months ago.
"We laugh about it now, but it's actually really scary," she said.
While out for a walk, she said she suddenly felt excruciating stings on her back.
"The man waved and let me cross the crosswalk and next thing I know, I'm thinking, 'Did I just get shot?'"
Brandon said this happened near Thirteenth Street and Clinch Avenue. Reyriedell's home sits near this location. One of the only businesses in that area is a veterinary clinic that actually has the street next to Reyriedell's home in view.
"To know they're not only targeting me, but they're targeting females, they need to be caught," Reyriedell said.
A manager of Central Veterinary Hospital said their surveillance goes back months. They're keeping an ear to the wall for the black sedan described.