No criminal charges in Nerf Wars crash that claimed 2 Lakeville South students

- Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom says no criminal charges will be filed in the Dec. 5, 2015 rollover crash that killed Lakeville South High School students Jake Flynn and Johnny Price. The crash happened during a game of Nerf Wars, which involves shooting opposing team players with a soft Nerf bullet or dart for points.

The crash happened after school near the intersection of 205th St and Dodd Road in Eureka Township, Minn. Flynn, 17, and Price, 18, were passengers in the pickup truck. The driver of the vehicle was a 17-year-old boy who was seriously injured in the crash. A fourth passenger was the only person in the truck who was wearing a seatbelt. He was not ejected and suffered minor injuries.

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“While no criminal charges are being filed in this case, I hope that all youth take notice of how quickly tragedy can occur while operating a motor vehicle,” Backstrom said. “Games such as Nerf War have no place in a moving motor vehicle as they can lead to distractions to or interference with the driver with deadly consequences as occurred in this preventable incident. In fact, these types of games which can involve aggressive behaviors among youth have no place in our schools and communities and should end.”

“What this tragedy shows us is that seemingly innocent games such as Nerf War can have deadly consequences,” Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said. “Schools, law enforcement and parents should do all they can to prevent these types of games which can lead to aggressive behaviors by the youth involved and the students involved should step up and agree not to participate in these type of activities.”

Here’s a look at the possible criminal charges that were considered, and why Backstrom declined charges:

1. Kidnapping and False Imprisonment require intentionally confining, removing, or restraining someone without consent. "All of these youth were voluntarily involved in a “Nerf War” game, which allowed participants on one team take control of opponents of another team and transport them to locations where they could be shot by a Nerf bullet consistent with the games rules. Consequently, the youth involved in this game in essence consented to this activity and the elements of these crimes cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

2. Criminal Vehicular Homicide or Injury require proof of gross negligence when no evidence exists of impairment of the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in death or injury. "Gross negligence is defined as driving with very great negligence or without even scant care. Under the facts of this incident, this element cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

3. Reckless Driving is defined as consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that may result in harm to another person. "Careless Driving is defined as operating a vehicle carelessly or heedlessly in disregard of the rights of others or in a manner that endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property. There is insufficient evidence to meet the elements of these crimes in this instance as the driver of the vehicle was not speeding and could not necessarily have known there would be a risk of him being bumped by other passengers in the truck involved in an altercation, nor is there sufficient evidence the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash."

4. Failure to Exercise Due Care involves driving a vehicle at an unreasonable speed or failing to become and remain aware of actual and potential hazards on a highway and exercising due care in light of these hazards while driving. "There is insufficient evidence to meet the elements of this crime in this instance as the driver of the truck was not speeding and could not necessarily have known there would be a risk of him being bumped by other passengers in the truck involved in an altercation, nor is there sufficient evidence the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash."

5. Failure to Drive in a Single Lane involves the driver failing to drive in a single lane so as to endanger or likely to endanger person or property. "This offense requires an intentional act or negligence of the driver. There is insufficient evidence to meet the elements of this crime in this instance as the driver of the truck was not speeding and could not necessarily have known there would be a risk of him being bumped by other passengers in the truck involved in an altercation, nor is there sufficient evidence the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash. It was the bumping of the driver by another which caused him to leave his lane of traffic."


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