Students struck by pellets in drive-by near Loomis & North Main


Sami Mirza

The intersection of Loomis Street. and North Main Street, where last week a group of students were hit with a spray of pellets.

Nine female students were struck by pellets fired from a car on North Main Street on the evening of Wednesday, April 20, in an incident defined in the college’s crime log as a “simple assault.” The incident, reported to the campus community on the afternoon of April 21 via the ALERTAllegheny campus-wide alert system, took place at around 9 p.m. near Loomis St.
“What was described to us was (that) a red Ford Fusion pulled up … alongside the group of girls and proceeded to shoot into the group with an airsoft gun, and a number of the girls were hit with the airsoft pellets,” said Kurt Sitler, the detective for the Office of Public Safety.
When the incident was reported to Public Safety just before 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, Sitler examined the scene but was unable to find any pellets that may have been fired at the students.
“We went down, we walked around the area, (and) we couldn’t find anything in the area,” Sitler said. “It could have been washed away by rain. It’s hard to say.”
Roughly an hour after the incident was reported to Public Safety, the office notified the campus community by email.
As an institution that receives federal funding, Allegheny is required by the federal Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 to disclose information about crimes on campus that would be a threat to students or employees.
“The notification was — we need to let students know, one this happened, and two, just to be vigilant at night in case this is going to be a recurring incident,” Sitler said. “Our concern at that time was there is a TikTok challenge called the ‘Orbeez challenge’ … and there’s been a couple of incidents across the country, nothing locally here, where kids have gone out with these Orbeez … and they shoot people.”
“Orbeez” is a line of children’s sensory toys based around water or gel beads and describes itself as the “perfect ASMR toy.” Across the country, however, the brand has become synonymous with gel guns and incidents of children and teenagers shooting random passers-by with the toy weapons.
Last month, the Salt Lake City CBS affiliate KUTV reported that a young girl in Ogden, UT, was allegedly hit in the eye with some sort of pellet, causing serious trauma. In early April, Sports Illustrated wrote that a football player at the University of Georgia was arrested after allegedly mistaking a group of strangers for his friends, and shooting them with a gel gun.
However, it is still unclear what was used in the North Main St. incident. Sitler said that the use of a gel gun stands as a remote possibility unproven by any evidence from the incident.
“Like I said, when we went down there, we couldn’t find anything, so we don’t know if it’s related or not,” Sitler said. “That was kind of the reason (for the notification) — ‘well, if it is (related) and this is gonna be something recurring, we need to let people know, just to be aware of it.’”
For Shula Bronner, ’22, this incident brought back memories of other breaches in campus security.
“It makes me think about the sexual assault (in Ravine-Narvik Hall) two years ago, and what (it) was like being on campus back then,” Bronner said. “It was pretty terrifying and every single person I know, like, we would all use the buddy system to walk around at night.”
Bronner sees a contrast between the community’s response in 2019, and their response to this incident.
“(In 2019) there was just so much raw emotion and it’s definitely in contrast to this (incident) where just an email was sent out.”
Of the classes currently on campus, only the classes of 2022 and 2023 were at Allegheny for the 2019 incident, and Bronner said that the communal memory of the assault has been diluted.
“I was telling people (in 2019) that I thought (the assault) was going to be the defining event at Allegheny for the next 5-10 years, it would be a major thing we would all remember it,” Bronner said. “Then COVID happened three months later, and now the layoffs of the faculty and staff and it’s just … I feel like that (has) already been forgotten.”
Other students saw different parallels in the incident. Joseph Friedman, ‘23, thought that the perpetrator of the crime was “most likely” a member of the Meadville community.
“There’s a reason that Allegheny students don’t tend to like the Meadville townies, and it’s because the opposite is true,” Friedman said. “They tend not to like us and act accordingly.”
While Tanner Slesh, ’25, understood that assaults and shootings occur in America, they were shocked that it landed on Allegheny’s doorstep.
“Obviously, this isn’t on the scale of like, an actual shooting, but it’s just like, ‘wow, really?’” Slesh said. “It felt super petty, at least to me. There’s no need for that.”
Slesh also said that the randomness and lack of information or clear motive also made the situation confusing.
“These things happen, but like, in my head, I try to find the reason (for them) and that might just be, ‘people are stupid,’” Slesh said.
Sitler said that if students see any red Ford Fusion sedan — even if it is not acting suspiciously — they should note the license plate number and contact Public Safety as soon as possible. Students with information about the incident can reach out to Public Safety by calling (814) 332-3357 or visiting their office in Murray Hall.