While pranks and other hijinks of that sort have long been fodder for YouTubers and other Internet-savvy content developers aiming to gain followers, the line between harmless fun and needless danger is no longer as obvious as it once was. In a recent example of pranking gone wrong, a 20-year-old was shot and killed in Nashville as he and a friend were in the midst of staging a faux robbery.
It has been reported that on the night of Friday, February 5, YouTuber Timothy Wilks and a friend approached a group of people outside of a shopping center with an Urban Air trampoline park. Wilks and the friend were allegedly brandishing butcher knives at the time in the hopes of drawing out more horrified reactions for the video being recorded. That tactic apparently worked too well, as one of the faux crime's victims pulled out a handgun and shot Wilks, who died of the gunshot wounds in the same parking lot.
According to WZTV Fox 17 in Nashville, the shooter in this incident was 23-year-old Daniel Starnes, Jr., who stayed on the scene after the incident and gave his statement to police. While Starnes admitted to shooting Timothy Wilks, he claims he was not aware that the two would-be robbers were only filming a prank video, and he reacted in self defense when he pulled his weapon out and discharged it.
At this time, no charges have been filed against Daniel Starnes, Jr. in Timothy Wilks' death, though an investigation is ongoing to make sure all of the facts are straight. It's unclear if Wilks' friend, who also hasn't been charged with any crimes, is the one who claimed the robbery was intended to only be a prank.
The shooting, which occurred in the Urban Air parking lot between 9:00-9:30 p.m. CST, obviously had some residents in the area shaken up. Here's what one of the trampoline park's customers had to say about someone pulling an alleged prank like that, according to WKRN News 2:
This is like a huge kids area and when we were in there, there were a ton of tiny kids and it’s just like that would not be a great idea. Especially if anyone was walking out here or something like that.
As more and more young people get invested in making a name for themselves on YouTube, TikTok and other web-based platforms, there's a growing need to make content even more extreme and different in order to set oneself apart from the rest. In some cases, it involves relatively harmless alterations to giant signs in Los Angeles or Sasha Baron Cohen's costumed bravado, but situations can obviously go way too far too quickly where pranks are concerned, and hopefully Timothy Wilks' death can serve as a reminder that scaring strangers is not the best way to produce new videos.
It's unclear if Timothy Wilks' YouTube account has been removed from the video service, or if it was temporarily suspended as the investigation continues.