CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — Jamie Pessina hasn’t slept much and her head has been throbbing all day.
She’s experienced a range of emotions, from anger to sadness. And it is all because of the so-called TikTok “Orbeez Challenge.” Pessina was walking along Gulfview Boulevard on Clearwater Beach early Monday morning with her nephew when she was shot in the eye.
“When they came at us, we just heard, I just heard three shots,” Pessina said. “I didn’t even know. I wouldn’t have even thought. I was freaking out, I was worried about my sight. I was worried that I couldn’t open my eye at the time. And I was just worried about not being able to see. “
Friends helped her get back to her place of employment until she could compose herself. She decided to walk to her car with her nephew and then it happened again.
“We are walking to the car, heading to the hospital, and they came back at us,” Pessina said. “Immediately, as soon as that first pop hit, I literally grabbed my nephew, turned around. I could just hear ‘pop, pop, pop.’ I got hit three times and he got hit.”
Police said the men were shooting Orbeez pellets at Pessina and other unsuspecting victims. The pellets are gel, but depending on where they hit you, investigators said they can be dangerous. That’s why law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area and across the nation have urged young people not to participate in the challenge.
Police arrested 18-year-olds Jacob Canaynay and Joshua Sanchez and charged them with battery and aggravated battery. The men appeared before a judge on Monday afternoon. Chad Canaynay appeared on his son’s behalf.
“It was this stupid TikTok challenge, they should have never followed,” the elder Canaynay told the judge. “They should have just been partying by themselves at home. “
Sanchez’s stepfather Steve Smith also addressed the judge.
“Joshua is a good kid and he has never been in trouble before,” Smith told the judge. “I can speak to his character as a person because he does want to be a productive member of society.”
Rob Shaw, with the Clearwater Police Department said despite law enforcement’s repeated efforts to inform the public that these toys can be dangerous, people aren’t receiving the message. He said the two teens who were arrested in the latest incident are now facing a serious felony charge that could affect their future.
“Say you’re 18 years old now and you want to get a job, you want to maybe go get a further education,” Shaw said. “You’re now going to have a felony on your record.”
Pessina said she went to the emergency clinic to get checked out and she was planning on going to an eye specialist on Monday afternoon.
She said it’s too early to tell if there is any permanent damage, but she can see out of her left eye now and is hopeful. She believes the young men who shot her should be held responsible.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I would ever feel that way,” she said. “I don’t like it. I don’t want to be around that stuff. This is going to affect me for a very long time.”