LILBURN -- A 14-year-old Lilburn Middle School student was struck by a bleach-filled water balloon Wednesday afternoon, police said, sending him to the hospital with burns to both eyes and putting a traumatic damper on what have should been a joyous start to summer vacation.
Just after leaving his last day of school, the student was walking down the sidewalk on the 4000 block of Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn Police spokesman Capt. Bruce Hedley said.
A water balloon filled with bleach was thrown from a moving vehicle, Hedley said, striking him in the face at around 4:40 p.m.
"From time to time, especially on the last day of school, you see pranks, and maybe a water balloon is just having fun," Hedley said. "But to see one that is filled with bleach is beyond comprehension ... A kid leaving school for the last day for what could have been a perfect summer, this is just crazy to me."
The child was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center and was treated for severe trauma to his face and burns to both eyes. He has since been released and is "resting comfortably" at his mother's Norcross home, Hedley said.
"He was in bad shape, but aware of his surroundings (during a visit Wednesday night)," Hedley said.
Witnesses have reported that the suspects were three Hispanic males driving a gray minivan with a black stripe down the lower portion of the vehicle.
Based on the belief that the suspects were in their late teens, the time of the attack and the proximity of the middle school to several area high schools, Hedley said, there is a "strong possibility" that the suspects "were high school students just let out from school as well."
The 14-year-old is believed to be a random target in the wrong place and the wrong time -- police found fragments of other water balloons presumably thrown by the same suspects, but they were unable to determine if they too had been filled with bleach, Hedley said.
Pending the child's recovery, any person found to be responsible could be charged with aggravated battery or aggravated assault, Hedley said.
"We're pleading with the public to find out who owns this van," Hedley said. "We're pleading with the public for information that will lead to the identification of these suspects."
"They need to be punished," he added. "They need to stand in court for what they did."
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the van or the identity of the suspects is asked to call 770-921-2211.