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.
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.