Record number of students competing in annual spring “Assassins” water gun fight 

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By Ann Marie Shambaugh 

To some, it’s a long-awaited fun senior privilege, while others see it as a potentially dangerous endeavor that promotes irresponsible behavior. Either way, the annual Assassins competition is underway and features the biggest field yet.

Assassins is a water fight tag game organized each spring by members of the senior class at Zionsville Community High School, although it is in no way promoted or sanctioned by the school. Participants pair up and are assigned two targets each week with a goal of ambushing them with water guns when they least expect it. If both members of a team get shot, or if a team fails to take out one of its targets for the week, that team is disqualified.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Tess Whitesell, a ZCHS senior and organizer of this year’s competition. “You’re breaking your everyday lifestyle for about 10 weeks, because an attack can happen at any time.”

Not everyone sees that element of surprise as a good thing. ZCHS sent out a message to parents in the school’s weekly email newsletter warning that the game can lead to “student arrests, loss of employment and inappropriate changes in social patterns.”

Zionsville Police Department Capt. Robert Musgrave said he is not aware of the game resulting in any arrests, but it does lead to a number of calls each year.

“We are aware that while there is no intent of the participants to break any laws, we are concerned that there could be a misunderstanding from someone who sees a person, generally in the early morning hours, dressed in all black wielding what looks like a firearm and running through someone else’s property,” Musgrave said.

Assassins organizers have fine-tuned the rules over the years to minimize potential problems. The current rules, for example, prohibit water guns at school and shooting targets who are at work or church. Targets may not be shot on Sundays, which gives everyone a 24-hour break from being on constant alert.

This year’s game has 180 participants, which is the largest competition ever, Whitesell said. The winning team will receive $550, which she believes will help motivate players to follow all of the rules.

In addition to following all of the Assassins rules, police are urging participants to use an abundance of caution and common sense.

“The police department doesn’t want to dismantle the good intentions of good people, but we don’t want people getting hurt when it can be avoided,” Musgrave said. “We discourage anyone from modifying or enhancing any squirt gun to make its appearance more realistic.”

Whitesell is aware of the game’s risks, but she believes this year’s participants are well-informed of the rules and motivated to follow them.

“Because people want to win so badly and they know you have to follow the rules to win, we’re hoping that no one will take it too far,” she said. “It would be kind of dumb. You’d be putting yourself out of the game if you do that, so we’re hoping people follow the rules.”


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