The Death Of YouTuber Timothy Wilks During A Robbery Stunt Gone Wrong Is A Grim Reminder That Pranks Aren't Funny

Photo: YouTube
Timothy Wilks

It’s a sad day for the YouTube community

One of their own, Timothy Wilks, was shot dead during a robbery prank gone awry on Feb. 5 in the parking lot of a Hermitage, Tenn. trampoline park — a place that locals say is frequented by families and children. 

He was 20 years old. 

According to Nashville Police, Wilks and an unnamed accomplice/friend approached a group of people in the parking lot while carrying butcher knives in an attempt to film a robbery prank. 

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In turn, a 23-year-old man named David Stern Jr. shot Wilks in self-defense, claiming that he had no idea that Wilks and his friend were filming a prank for a YouTube video.

While no arrests have been made in the shooting, police issued a statement about the fatal shooting of Wilks that reads:

“Homicide Unit detectives are investigating a claim of self-defense in Friday night’s fatal shooting of Timothy Wilks, 20, in the parking lot of Urban Air on Old Hickory Boulevard in Hermitage.

When officers responded to the scene at 9:25 p.m., David Starnes Jr., 23, was there and admitted to shooting Wilks.

Detectives were told that Wilks and a friend were participating in a ‘prank’ robbery as part of a YouTube video and approached a group of people, including Starnes, with butcher knives. Starnes said he was unaware of the prank and shot Wilks in defense of himself and others.

No charges have been placed at present. The investigation is continuing.”

Unfortunately, robbery pranks are still quite common in today’s day and age, even though YouTube officially banned them from their platform in 2019. 

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According to the platform’s Harmful or Dangerous Content Policy, “dangerous or threatening pranks” are prohibited and defined as “pranks that lead victims to fear imminent serious physical danger, or that create serious emotional distress in minors.”

And in wake of Wilks’s unnecessary death, many social media users are calling for influencers and aspiring viral stars to put an end to pranks like this for one simple reason: they aren’t funny. 

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And they’re right.

What’s so funny about purposely traumatizing a stranger (or even someone you know, for that matter) — all for the validation of strangers on the internet or a few thousand views/likes on social media?

Have we as a society become so consumed with gaining attention on social media — whether that’s with shock value, danger, or something else — that people are willing to risk and/or give their lives for … views? Clicks? Likes?

It’s not worth it, and it never has been. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a prank like this has gone awry and ended in an unnecessary death.

But let’s hope it’s the last. 

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Olivia Jakiel is an editor and writer who covers celebrity and entertainment news. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her zingers on Twitter