Teenagers are participating in a dangerous new internet craze known as the "No Lackin Challenge," and a Memphis boy was shot in the head during an instance of the fad gone awry.





In late January 2018, multiple news outlets and blogs said a fad called the “No Lackin Challenge” led to the accidental shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Memphis:

Early, local reports of the incident didn’t describe the shooting as related to the No Lackin Challenge. The internet fad apparently involves participants drawing guns on one another; in the context of the No Lackin Challenge, “lackin” is purportedly a Chicago-area colloquialism defined as being caught without a firearm.

Local news station WMC reported:

A 17-year-old was shot in the head at E’s Cafe in Midtown on Thursday morning, according to Memphis Police Department.

… Police said the teen and a friend were playing with a handgun when it went off by accident.

According to WREG, the victim was among a group of friends “playing with a gun”:

… police say a 17-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the head, while he and his friends were playing with a gun.

“All young kids,” said Ron Eanes, area manager at E’s Cafe. “They were sitting there talking, and they started showing each other a gun and it accidentally went off.”

Subsequently, USA Today reported:

[the teen who fired the weapon] gave police a statement and told investigators they were playing the [No Lackin Challenge] and the shooting was an accident. He was later arrested and charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and unlawful possession of a weapon.

As the incident became associated with the No Lackin Challenge, interest in the story spread to national and international sources. But increased interest following a story about a fad doesn’t demonstrate that the fad itself is gaining popularity, or was ever popular. 

A Google search restricted to results published prior to the 25 January 2018 shooting was sparse, consisting primarily of misdated links pertaining to the incident in Memphis. Three YouTube videos in total dated 27 September 2017, 7 October 2017, and 14 December 2017 were among the scant results. Notably, clips often depicted individuals armed with what were clearly toy weapons. Although two of the three videos had tens of thousands of views, the challenge in no way appeared to be widespread or popular. 

And if there was indeed a social media trend by that name, very few people searched for the No Lackin Challenge on the internet. Google Trends data demonstrated a small spike around the time the September 2017 video was published, before showing a massive uptick after the Memphis shooting:

It was true that an unnamed 17-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the head in Memphis on 25 January 2018, an incident later described as an instance of the No Lackin Challenge gone awry. However, early reports described the shooting as accidental and attributed it to improper handling of a firearm without any mention of a social media fad. Moreover, search data returned little evidence of the purported trend increasing in popularity prior to its appearance in worldwide news, along with little evidence teenagers were drawing guns on one another as part of a social media challenge. Local reporting indicated that the victim was in critical condition, but no credible information about his prognosis was available as of 29 January 2018.

Jones, Yolanda.   “‘No Lackin’ Game Leads To Shooting Of Teen, Memphis Police Say.”
    USA Today.   26 January 2018.

Taylor, Eryn and Nina Harrelson.   “Teen Shot In Head At E’s Cafe, Suspect Arrested.”
    WREG.   25 January 2018.

WMC.   “Man Charged After Teen Accidentally Shot In Head At Midtown Cafe.”
    25 January 2018.

More From