On September 4, Amanda Jacobsen was outside her apartment on Nicollet Avenue, working on a vintage camper. As she dragged cushions from the curb to the front door, a car pulled up. Its window was down, but no one said anything.
Then: “All of a sudden the driver was squirting me in the face with the squirt gun.”
It happened to Victoria on September 11. She was out for a run, headphones in, making her way toward Lake Street on Bryant Avenue.
“All of a sudden something wet hit my face—got in my eyes and mouth,” she says. She looked over to see a guy had pulled his car up very slowly next to her before spraying her with a water gun out of the passenger window.
“I called 911 to report it—which I’ll admit I felt kind of silly doing. The city has a lot more to deal with than someone getting sprayed in the face by some kook,” she says. “I just wanted there to be a report this happened in case it was bigger than just some single occurrence.”
She was right: It’s definitely bigger than a one-off. Over the last several weeks, dozens of women have reported being squirted with… something, by the driver of a dark blue or green car. Nearly all the targets are women or female-presenting, and most describe getting hit with a liquid that’s colorless and odorless—probably water, though no one knows for sure.
Darcy Fastner was walking with her husband and 9-month-old son on September 19 when she got sprayed by someone in an “older blue sedan” on the southwest corner of 42nd and Lyndale.
Laura was biking near 43rd and Colfax when a driver pulled up, reached across the passenger seat, pointed a water gun at her face, and squirted an unknown substance into her eyes and mouth. “I got off my bike, flipped them off, screamed something along the lines of ‘fuck you,’ and looked around for anyone who may have seen what happened,” she recalls.
Ellen Finn had just moved to south Minneapolis—she thinks it was the first week of September—and was walking with her brand-new roommate around their brand-new neighborhood. They were near 35th and Pleasant when someone pulled up in a dark sedan, which she didn’t think anything of until water started hitting her in the face.
Not all the squirtings have happened in South. Kathleen Lamb was also on her bike, about a half-block from her Richfield home, with her nearly two-year-old daughter in tow. “I first feel, you know, that ghost-y feeling that there’s a presence next to you. I look over and I just see the bright-orange tip of a squirt gun.” She was hit square in the face. Some liquid got in her eyes, some in her mouth.
It's possible the serial soaker has, after about a month, been caught wet-handed. One south Minneapolis resident made a report at the Fifth Precinct Wednesday and told City Pages that officers said the serial squirters were caught on September 22, and folks on Twitter have been saying the same. A call placed to the department Thursday was not immediately returned.
(Update: On Friday, September 25 at 2 p.m., a spokesperson for the MPD told City Pages that this is an ongoing investigation and no arrests have been made.)
Still, most targets share a sense of bewilderment. “It wasn’t a super-soaker, it was this little, measly water gun,” Finn chuckles—the kind of dinky plastic thing a kid would give out at their birthday party. “I was just like… what is going on?”
“It was so bizarre. I was genuinely so confused and just kind of just froze,” Laura says.
“I just sorta stared at them and didn’t really understand what was happening,” says Jacobsen. She went inside, washed her face, and told her partner what happened, then scheduled a COVID test just in case.
Sometimes it’s just the driver acting alone, but sometimes there are passengers. Most report that those in the car have been wearing face masks. Jacobsen has actually been hit twice; she was squirted again on Monday of this week. The first time, there were three people in the car, the next time it was just the driver. (She’s certain it was the same vehicle.) In both cases, the liquid was colorless and odorless; she couldn’t smell bleach, and her clothing wasn’t damaged. Her COVID test came back negative.
“So I do think it’s just water and some asshole getting his jollies,” she says. “But it’s definitely weird and disturbing.”
“It was kind of creepy—especially since when we learned more about it online it seems like he’s only targeting femmes,” Finn adds, saying she was mostly left feeling confused.
“It was shocking, to say the least. I was actually very shook up for several days after,” Lamb says. She doesn’t think they got her kid, but still, she was worried. Like a few other women, she noticed a slight burning sensation, though she isn’t sure if it was from an irritant or from the trauma. Two weeks after the incident—she also got hit on September 11—she still has a visceral reaction when she passes that spot on the bike route she uses after she picks her daughter up from daycare. “It’s a violation of bodily autonomy.”
Victoria, who lives in South just down the street from where several of the squirtings have happened, says it’s probably just some random guy with a squirt gun who’s bored, but… what if it’s not? What if it escalates? If it’s a senior prank or something, why hasn’t it stopped? She’s found herself looking over her shoulder every time she hears a car approaching.
“It was an odd thing to reconcile because a water gun incident sounds or seems silly, but god, I felt so upset, disheartened, and violated,” says Laura. “I’ve lived here my whole life—I’m unfortunately no stranger to idiots yelling in appropriate things about my body or appearance while I’m exercising outside—but this absolutely sucked.”