An off-duty corrections officer has been charged with murder after fatally shooting a New York City teenager in possession of a toy water gun featured in a notorious TikTok challenge.
Dion Middleton, 45, was also charged with manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon after taking the life of Raymond Chaluisant, 18, in the Bronx. Cops say Chaluisant was inside a car firing an Orbeez gun—a toy that fires water-filled pellets and is associated with a viral challenge on the social-media platform—though it’s unclear who or what the teen may have been aiming at. Middleton then shot the youngster with a real firearm, firing several rounds, according to sources cited by the Daily News. Chaluisant’s sister, Jiraida Esquilin, told the publication that her younger sibling was just taking part in a water fight with friends.
“I can’t believe a corrections officer killed my brother,” Esquilin said. “Everything nowadays is a rage thing. They were just having fun,” she added. “It’s a new nerf gun that shoots water. The whole neighborhood was having a water gun fight. It was 90 degrees.”
Esquilin explained that her heartbroken family was already grieving the loss of her dad, who died five months ago. Chaluisant’s mother wasn’t able to identify her own mortally wounded child after he was shot at close range in the chin, Esquilin told the Daily News. She said her family didn’t know who he was with at the time of the shooting. Cops later said the driver of the silver Acura in which they found an unconscious Chaluisant was a 22-year-old acquaintance from Yonkers. Authorities said they found the vehicle around half a mile from the location where the shooting took place. Chaluisant was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital, but doctors were unable to save his life.
Middleton reportedly went to work as normal at the NYPD shooting range where he is employed in training after the shooting. He was arrested at the range in Rodman’s Neck on Thursday after cops tracked his vehicle through surveillance footage. “He went and clocked in. He’s a 45-year-old man,” Esquilin said. “Raymond could’ve been his son. What a coward.”
The toy guns have been involved in a viral “Orbeez Challenge” on TikTok in which people fire water beads out of moving cars. There’s no evidence to suggest Chaluisant was shooting at Middleton before he was killed, or that he was making a TikTok video.
On Thursday evening, the NYPD tweeted out a reminder to locals that the toys were illegal in New York City. “Bead Blasters shoot gel water beads propelled by a spring-loaded air pump, making them an air rifle,” the announcement read. “Air rifles are a violation in NYC & are unlawful to possess. “Violators found in possession of these will be issued a criminal summons & the weapon will be confiscated.”