Timothy Wilks, a 20-year-old YouTuber, was shot and killed in Nashville on Friday night while trying to film a robbery “prank” video. Wilks and at least one friend reportedly approached a group of people in the parking lot of Urban Air, a trampoline business, while holding butcher knives, according to the Nashville Tennessean newspaper.
One man in the group, 23-year-old David Starnes Jr., shot Wilks around 9:30 p.m., believing that he and his friends were in life-threatening danger. Starnes told police he wasn’t aware it was supposed to be a prank, according to the Tennessean.
Starnes has not been charged and an investigation into the fatal shooting as a matter of self defence is ongoing, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Further details about how the “prank” was supposed to go for the cameras were not immediately available.
Prank videos are tremendously popular on YouTube, though the definition of “prank” is often in the eye of the beholder. Approaching someone with a weapon, in this case a butcher knife, is not really a prank so much as a threat of violence.
YouTube didn’t invent the prank video, nor did it invent young people doing dumb shit for attention. But YouTube has allowed people to easily monetise that attention in a way that wasn’t an option before.
Previously, you had to get your own MTV show, like Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass crew, if you wanted to make any money doing absolutely stupid and dangerous things in front of a large audience. And Knoxville was never dumb enough to approach people with knives and make it look like he was about to rob them for a “prank.”
But maybe we’re speaking too soon. There are reports that the Jackass crew will be appearing in a new movie soon. Knoxville and Steve-O have even been hospitalized while filming it, according to multiple reports. Let’s just hope they’re not going to rob anyone. We’ve seen how that works out.