A long-running urban legend warns that drivers who flash their headlights at a car driving without its lights on may prompt a carload of gang members to chase and kill them as part of a gang initiation.
Although it is believed this hoax has it origins as early as the 1980’s, the first time it gained wide attention was back in 1993 when it circulated via fax. This fax warned of “initiation weekend” which was supposed to occur on September 25-26 of that year.
An example of media coverage at the time can be found in Deseret News, which reported on September 25, 1993:
The faxes announced “Blood Initiation Weekend” and indicated that potential gang members are supposed to drive around with their lights off. To be accepted into a gang, these drivers are supposed to shoot and kill everyone in the first car that does a courtesy flash to warn them that their lights are off.
Copies of the bogus warning were handed out at banks and hospitals by well-intended workers. Some radio stations also issued warnings to listeners. Police departments in dozens of states fielded calls from concerned citizens.
Despite attempts by authorities to calm public concerns by flatly stating it was a hoax, the rumor continued to spread quickly between August and September of that year. When the designated “initiation weekend” resulted in no incidents described in the warning, one might have assumed that the hoax was finished.
Kelly Freed Murder
It has been suggested that the headlight flashing initiation warning in 1993 evolved from the true story of Kelly Freed, who was killed in September 1992. When Freed pulled up behind a car being driven by 15 year old Carlos Ojeda with its lights off, her passenger motioned to the car that its lights were off. Ojeda and his passenger Adrian Gutierrez mistook this helpful gesture as a sign of disrespect and began following Freed’s car. Freed pulled into a department store parking lot, where Gutierrez leaned out of the car window and fired a single shot, hitting Freed in the back. Freed later died from her injuries.
Gutierrez was denied parole in 2012.
As internet use gained popularity throughout the 1990’s, old hoaxes such as this began to resurface. Since the 1993, this “gang initiation” hoax has reappeared in the forms of emails, text messages, and social media.
In 2005, a popular email circulated with virtually the same warning as the one which spread over a decade earlier.
The new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights, and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his “target”. He is now required to turn around and chase that car, then shoot and kill every individual in the vehicle in order to complete his initiation requirements.
The most recent version of the gang initiation hoax came in the form of a graphic which was heavily circulated on social networks in mid-2013, and again in 2014. This graphic included a warning which read almost the same as the 1993 hoax:
Don’t flash headlights at any car with no lights on!
Police officers working with the DARE program have issued this warning:
If you are driving after dark and see an oncoming car with no headlights on, do not flash your lights at them!
This is a common Bloods member “initiation game” that goes like this:
The new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights, and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his “target.” He is now required to turn around and chase that car, then shoot and kill every individual in the vehicle in order to complete his initiation requirements. Police Depts. across the nation are being warned. Their intent is to have all the “new bloods nationwide drive around on Friday and Saturday nights with their headlights off.”
In order to be accepted into the gang, they have to shoot and kill all individuals in the first auto that does a courtesy flash to warn them that their lights are off. Make sure you share this information with all the drivers in your family!
Please forward this message to all your friends and family members to inform them about this initiation ritual.
Community Policing Manager
Chubb Electronic Security
Chubb issued a response when the rumor saw heavy sharing in 2013, claiming their name had been attached to the hoax 4 years prior, and that they had nothing to do with it. They further stated: “Chubb SA did not endorse nor do we support this statement.”
Authorities have categorically denied the veracity of this rumor for 20 years, and there have been no reported incidents of such initiation rites. Although the story may have origins in the 1992 Kelly Freed murder, the narrative of a gang initiation based on flashing headlights is unfounded.
Updated February 3, 2016
Originally published June 2013