Police investigating the deaths of two Lakeville South High School students say a game of "Nerf wars" is what brought the group of teenagers together before a fatal crash – but still aren't sure what was going on in the car at the time of the accident.
At a press conference Friday, Dakota County Sheriff's Office Captain Jim Rogers said officers recovered Nerf guns from the scene of the rollover crash on 225th Street last week, in which John Price, 18, and Jacob Flynn, 17, were killed. Two other teens were injured.
Sheriff Tim Leslie said Nerf wars "caused" the crash, in that it brought the four teens together to take part in the game. But investigators have not yet been able to establish whether the teens were shooting at each other in the car when the accident happened.
He said they continue to investigate whether the game caused the distraction that led to the rollover, or whether another factor was involved.
Rogers also revealed only one of the four people in the car was wearing a seatbelt, with Price and Flynn said to have been thrown from the pickup.
Nerf wars a popular game for high schoolers
Nerf wars have become a popular activity for students at Lakeville high schools, with players using the fake guns to shoot foam pellets at each other. Some of the games can be quite elaborate, with a long list of rules and a cash prize for the winners who successfully carry out "hits" on rival teams.
Police have not yet spoken to the pickup driver, 17-year-old Alexander Hughes, who remains in critical condition in the hospital. The fourth person in the vehicle, 18-year-old Mason Kohlbeck, was released a day later and has since returned to school.
The Lakeville community has been mourning the deaths of the Lakeville South High students, with Price being described by a friend as an "easy-going, funny guy," while Flynn, a football player, was a "great kid" with a "contagious smile."
A woman who saw the crash occur previously told the Pioneer Press the truck lost control and flipped on its own, making it highly unlikely another vehicle was involved.
Police have also debunked rumors that some of the teens were riding in the bed of the pickup when the crash occurred.