Man Allegedly Shoots Teen After ‘Senior Assassin’ Prank Involving Daughter

A Kansas teen was left paralyzed from the waist down after a fellow teen’s father shot him amid a game of “senior assassin,” according to law enforcement documents released this week.

Ruben Marcus Contreras, a man in his late 40s, was arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with a May 11 shooting in a Walmart parking lot in the town of Goddard. Sedgwick County deputies said he shot 18-year-old Anakin Zehring after Zehring and his friends had shot at his daughter with a gel blaster, a toy gun that uses water-based beads, according to an affidavit released Wednesday and obtained by HuffPost.

Contreras’ attorney did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. He was released on bond following his arrest.

Anakin Zehring
Anakin Zehring

Family handout

“Senior assassin” is a game played by high school seniors nationwide, in which students are given a “target” and tasked with eliminating them with a water gun or balloon until there’s only one player left. Many teens consider it a rite of passage, but in recent years, school officials and police have warned against it, fearing players will take things too far; a 16-year-old in Pennsylvania collapsed and died after a chase related to the game last month.

On the night of May 11, Zehring drove his blue Chevrolet Spark to the local Walmart, with two other teen boys riding with him. According to the affidavit, Contreras’ daughter and her boyfriend were walking toward the Walmart as Zehring and his friends drove past them. One of the boys inside Zehring’s car yelled, “I’m your senior assassin,” and shot the gel blaster at her.

Contreras’ daughter’s boyfriend told deputies that neither he nor Contreras’ daughter knew who the teen boys were and went to confront them. One of the teen boys allegedly called the boyfriend a “bitch” and told him to meet them out back.

The couple called Contreras to tell him they’d been shot at with gel blasters, and the boyfriend said the three other boys were “trying to beat him up,” according to the affidavit.

A short time later, Contreras arrived at the Walmart parking lot and walked toward Zhering’s Spark “in an angry manner,” according to a Walmart employee interviewed by law enforcement.

Contreras then allegedly pulled out a black handgun from his waist and fired one round through car’s back window into Zehring’s back, according to one of the boys in Zhering’s car, per the affidavit. As Zehring lost feeling in his legs, the car crashed into a shipping container in the parking lot.

Contreras told a bystander who rushed to the teen’s aid that “they shot my daughter” several times, according to the affidavit. Authorities found Zehring screaming and stating that he could not move his legs.

Anakin Zhering’s dad, Jeremy Zehring, confirmed with HuffPost that a good Samaritan had rushed over to his son.

“He took his own shirt off and held the wound shut so the bleeding would be contained and prayed for my son until the paramedics got there, ” Jeremy Zehring told HuffPost.

He and his wife saw a Facebook post that said there had been a shooting at the Walmart. They then checked a GPS tracker on their son’s car and saw that he was there.

“So then I started calling and it was going straight to voicemail, and I started panicking so then I look at my wife, and say, ‘We have to go,’” he said.

“I saw his car, fully a wreck, and they told me he has been transported to the hospital. And I was just like, what? What’s going on? And I just broke down,” he continued.

The Zehring family said he’d sustained severe injuries, including a bullet wound to the upper part of his small intestine and damage to his spinal cord, causing him to lose sensation from the waist down, according to a GoFundMe page. He’s undergone multiple surgeries and remains in the hospital.

Jeremy Zehring said his son is “paying the ultimate price” as he struggles emotionally to try and figure out what his future will look like. It’s unclear whether Anakin Zhering will be able to work alongside his father at the family’s electrical business.

He told HuffPost no parent should experience what his family has, and said his son wishes he had never been at the Walmart that night.

“It’s a devastating situation,” Jeremy Zhering said. “I know he wished he could change back things.”

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