‘I was terrified out of my mind’ — Local mother falls victim to ‘assassination’ prank

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A West Michigan woman says she was traumatized after falling victim to a terrifying prank last week.

Police refer to it as the “Assassination Game.” They said it typically involves high school seniors and takes place in public, with them trying to attack someone with fake weapons.

When it happened to Nicole Laughlin, she initially thought she was being carjacked.

“I was terrified out of my mind, I was shaking uncontrollably,” Laughlin told FOX 17 News.

Laughlin was about to leave for work in Comstock Park on Friday morning when she says a gray SUV blocked her exit from her driveway.

“A man jumped out of the bushes on my passenger side and came to my car window with a gun. He held the gun at my window and repeatedly shook the handle,” Laughlin said.

Afraid she was being carjacked and not knowing what to do, she says she began honking her horn.

“In my terror all I could think to do was hold the horn down. All I recall is he just waved the gun, I don’t recall him saying anything.”

She says the guy eventually gave up and got in the vehicle that was blocking her driveway. She followed them, taking pictures as they drove away. The license plate helped police identify them just a few hours later, as well as determine the gun used in the incident was not real. They also learned that Laughlin wasn’t even supposed to be involved.

“In this particular instance it was kind of a case of mistaken identity,” said Detective Joel Roon with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. “Where the players of the game were supposed to ‘assassinate’ someone who lived nearby.”

“They approached the wrong vehicle with the wrong person in it,” he added.

Police investigated the incident as an attempted carjacking, not realizing until they tracked the people down that they were students with Grand Rapids Christian Schools and that this was part of the "Assassination Game."

"We are familiar with the game, so once it came out that this was a game play-related incident, they were released into the custody of their parents and the school, so there were no arrests made," Roon said.

Thomas DeJonge, Superintendent of Grand Rapids Christian Schools, released a statement saying the school deeply regrets what happened and sincerely apologizes.

Full statement: 

Police say that despite it being played across the country, there is nothing funny about this game and that it could have deadly consequences.

"There are a number of people in the public today who carry firearms, and beyond that you could provoke a response from somebody," Roon said.

Laughlin says she is still traumatized by the experience.

"I feel a bit paranoid right now. You realize how vulnerable you are," she said. "Had that been a real criminal he could have run up my driveway and have access to my children."

She wants the students responsible to be held accountable. The Kent County Prosecutor's Office is currently reviewing the case and the two students could face charges.

"I have asked the police to press charges for whatever is appropriate," Laughlin said. "So that they are held accountable and this is taken seriously and that the behavior stops. My biggest concern is making sure students are safe."

The district is planning a meeting with staff and students Tuesday to talk about the dangers of this game.

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  • Andy

    Lucky kids that she wasn’t carrying concealed, you cannot tell if that gun is real or not, if it has a hole in the end of the barrel he could of been shot, what a stupid game.

    • Larry

      What Kind of woman is going to press charges against some kids for playing a game. Disgraceful, I feel sorry for you! What a sad world we live in thesse days.

      • grprospector

        Larry, I am guessing these are your stupid kids? In a world where terrorism, concealed carry and gun violence is a real threat, this game is about as stupid as your defense of it. These kids are not “well-meaning”, and if they were Mexican, Arab or black, they’d be in jail or dead. Are you stupid, or are you related to these stupid, careless, thoughtless, ignorant, entitled punks? They should be charged with a crime. Sorry.

        • Jon C.

          Are you trying to compare this to terrorism? Really? And bringing race in to make yourself seem so focused on equality is pathetic. Punks is hardly the word anyone should be using. It’s a simple mix-up. This woman was caught up in a GAME where obviously toy guns are used. If anyone is thoughtless or ignorant it’s Ms. Laughlin. She can’t tell the difference between a Nerf gun and a real gun? Let alone the reporters who wrote this article who appear to have taken only one side of the story and not even taken the time to understand the whole situation.

      • MIKESMCS

        If that child had been waving a gun at a woman who had a real gun and she had shot him who would be the stupid one , the woman protecting herself from a preceived deadly threat or the STUPID kid waving a gun at her . Yes they should be held accountable otherwise how are they going to realize this could have went very badly . No excuses this was wrong no gray area .

    • Audrey

      I don’t think that the argument of religion has anything to do with this situation and the argument of whether it is a public or private school is totally invalid. For one, it was not a school sponsored event so it had nothing to do with the school. Two, when I was a senior we played it in high school and 99% of the time it is played with nerf guns. It is a fun end of the year event for the seniors and it was fun for my class. Granted you need to make sure the person you are trying to assassin is indeed the person in the car. I would not go as far as to press charges and that sort of action is a bit extreme for me.

  • Jeff Lambert

    The “guns” are nerf guns and the game is essentially tag. It has been played by senior students at schools across the region and across the country for over a decade. It’s unbelievable that this woman would want the police to press charges, as if calling the police in the first place and then the local news wasn’t humiliating enough for these well-meaning kids.

  • BJ

    If she had never heard of the “game” (I never heard of it before) and someone blocked her driveway and ran up to her car window with what she thought was a handgun I understand her complete panic. If it had been an elderly person these stupid kids could have caused someone to have a heart attack. If it was someone carrying a concealed weapon, that person could have shot the student if they feared for their life. This is a very stupid and dangerous “game” to be playing. I agree with her that charges should be filed against these students. They should not be doing this to people. There are too many instances that you read about nowadays of people actually being attacked by mentally unstable people on college campuses, at places of work, or just about anywhere. It would be very easy for these students’ actions to be misinterpreted.

  • grprospector

    Sick, entitled rich kids with no scope of reality. They should be charged with a crime. If these little bastards were any other color, they would be in jail or dead. This is disgusting, and the police should be ashamed that they let them off the hook so easily. If you try to rob someone with a fake gun, it’s still a crime, no matter the intent. I am not sure how these thugs got off so easy. Oh…wait…yes I am…

    • Audrey

      Wow, I did not know that the article said what race and class/economic status the children were. And for you to call someone’s children by those names makes you no better and is disgusting quite frankly. This is a game that is played all a crossed the country regardless if it is a public, private, or charter school. Most of the time it is played with nerf guns and I for one have participated in senior assassination my senior year. It was a fun way to end the year and was not a school sponsored event my class took it outside of school. It was a mistake and yes they should have been more careful, although pressing charges is a bit extreme in my opinion.

  • Silent Observor

    Now lets see if the students around the corner at Ottawa Hills High School can play this same dumb ass game, run up to a persons car with a fake gun while pulling on their car doors and then get taken back to school like nothing happen? GTFOH!!!

    • master P

      Yep, these kids were stupid but a plastic replica of a real gun is far different than a brightly colored nerf gun. Why would the kids at the school around the corner be treated any differently?

  • Martin Pal

    “…press charges for whatever is appropriate”

    Are you kidding me? You got plunked by some HS kids and in your embarrassment you feel it necessary to get even? These kids will suffer enough for their actions. Oh and all future kids just had their Senior fun ruined. Oh and you had to go on TV? Good on you.

  • master P

    There’s a recent history of inept leadership in the district, but especially in the high school and superintendent’s office. From the immigration “rally” that turned into a PR nightmare with Trump supporters picketing out front to athletic recruiting accusations (which are probably true) to the head football coach frequenting strip clubs (shocker) and the superintendent being intoxicated in public and being taken home by the police and now this. Hard to say if this is a pattern or a trend. I’m leaning toward a trend and they are trending down.