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High school assassination game ends in violence
Norman2c Caleb
Caleb Norman

A high school senior tradition that involves students driving around town and “assassinating” each other with water guns led to an incident that seriously injured a Turlock man and saw a teen arrested for aggravated assault.

 “Senior Assassination” has been a high school graduation tradition for many years, but the game can have serious consequences.

Robbie Bettencourt said his son had to undergo a five-hour surgery to repair his jaw after a fight erupted Wednesday night during the assassination game.

“Driving around squirting people needs to stop because my son will never be the same again,” said Bettencourt.

The incident began when Hunter Bettencourt, a 2016 graduate of Pitman High School, was with his girlfriend, a current Turlock High student, when she sprayed THS student Caleb Norman with water in the 300 block of Wabash Drive, near Donnelly Park, around 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

According to Turlock Police spokesperson Sgt. Russell Holeman, Norman became upset and began video recording the girl with his cell phone. She pushed the phone away from her and Bettencourt told Norman to stop. Words were exchanged and Bettencourt got out of his vehicle. Norman then pushed the girl out of the way and struck Bettencourt with a closed fist on his jaw. The two got into a wrestling match where Bettencourt was struck several more times.

Bettencourt went to a local hospital for treatment for significant injuries to his face and jaw.

Police officers went to Norman’s home later that night and arrested him for assault causing great bodily injury. Everyone involved in the incident was over 18, according to Sgt. Holeman.

Turlock Unified School District spokesperson Marie Russell said that the district “is aware of the unfortunate incident that happened on Wednesday night and have been working closely with Turlock Police Department to inform parents of the potential danger of this non-TUSD sponsored event.” 

The school sent letters to parents on Friday notifying them that students found in possession of a squirt pistol, water rifle or any other water-related weapon on campus are in violation of the Education Code will be suspended from school. Students found organizing a senior assassination activity during the school day could also be subject to disciplinary action; and students participating in the game could be removed from Senior Activities such as prom, Grad Nite and commencement.

“We strongly discourage students from participating in this dangerous activity which could lead to harm as well as result in school discipline and/or removal from senior activities,” said Russell.

The senior assassination game isn’t just a problem in Turlock.

In February, City of Manteca police officers responded to a reported armed robbery in progress and detained as many as six suspects at gunpoint at the Mission Ridge shopping center. It wasn’t until they searched the suspects and then interviewed them that they realized that they were playing a “game.”