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Lazer Combat Runs Amok in City Parks 

Our advice: Don't get caught in the crossfire.

Employees of Richmond's parks department reported two incidents of "four or five guys running around all in camouflage" near the Carillon April 1 and the evening of May 12. They also found unexploded paintballs and paint splotches on the wooden Haypenny Stage, leading them to suspect a band of rogue paintballers.

"But fear not!" writes Dave Hamrick, who identifies himself as one of the camo-wearing warriors. They're playing lazer tag, he says, and don't want to be confused with the "disrespectful miscreants" who tagged the stage.

Hamrick is a member of the H.U.B. Lazertag Group, a band of about 16 people who have been playing lazer tag alternate Sundays (and occasional nights) in Bryan Park, Byrd Park, Hanover Wayside Park and other local public parks.

Like paintball, lazer tag involves hunting and taking fire at one's opponents, but players wear devices that register "tags" from their opponents' infrared beams, similar to the infrared that television remote controls emit. Unlike earlier versions of the game, Hamrick says, players do not wear outfits resembling characters from "Tron."

Hamrick's group usually plays in teams that execute quasi-military maneuvers to carry out objectives, such as capturing the other team's territory. "We'll usually play amphitheater versus Carillon," he says.

Park staff and police have occasionally approached the lazer taggers, Hamrick says, but are usually satisfied when they're shown that the guns — made of colorful plastic — aren't firing projectiles.

Paintballing, because it uses pneumatic weapons, is prohibited in city parks. But no ordinance appears to prevent lazer tag, police say, because city laws state that toy pistols do not qualify as firearms. No one is supposed to be in city parks after dark, however.

"The night games probably are the most suspicious thing," Hamrick says. Especially after one player accidentally bumped against a Carillon door and set off an alarm. He says the lazer taggers are phasing out their after-dark activities. S



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