YouTube Stunt Turns Deadly for a Couple Seeking Internet Fame

Pedro Ruiz III died after his girlfriend shot him while filming a video

Monalisa Perez and Pedro Ruiz III were trying to achieve YouTube fame when she shot him for a stunt. La MonaLisa
Headshot of Sami Main

Pedro Ruiz III, a 22-year-old aspiring YouTube star who lived in Minnesota, died Monday after convincing his girlfriend to fire a gun toward a book at point-blank range in front of his chest.

Monalisa Perez, his 19-year-old pregnant girlfriend, frequently posted prank and stunt videos with Ruiz and their family on their YouTube channel; the couple was hoping this dangerous stunt would let them achieve a new level of digital fame. The pair went through with the stunt, according to The Washington Post, because Ruiz thought a book that had previously stopped a bullet was proof the stunt would work.

The couple set up two cameras to record their prank. Perez fired a gold Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol at Ruiz from a foot away, according to court documents. The bullet went through the book and pierced Ruiz’s chest.

Perez, who made the 911 call to police, is charged with second-degree manslaughter.

“They were in love. It was just a prank gone wrong. It shouldn’t have happened like this. It shouldn’t have happened at all,” said Claudia Ruiz, Pedro’s aunt, to a local news affiliate. “I wish they wouldn’t have done it. I wish he would’ve just done another prank.”

Before the fatal shooting, Perez posted on Twitter about performing the stunt:

The couple created their channel in March, which until this week’s deadly stunt only contained a few videos that had surpassed 20,000 views.

The amount of money and fame each individual YouTuber can make varies on their participation with AdSense and the ever-fluctuating CPM rate of participants.

YouTube discourages such videos in its Policy Center: “Videos that we consider to encourage dangerous or illegal activities include instructional bomb making, choking games, hard drug use, or other acts where serious injury may result. A video that depicts dangerous acts may be allowed if the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA), and it isn’t gratuitously graphic.”

Perez is being held on a $7,000 cash bail. If she’s convicted, she could face up to 10 years behind bars. She’ll be back in court on July 5.

“It’s a tragic incident. What she did … she has to live with that,” said Lisa Primeau, one of Ruiz’s aunts. “It’s the worst punishment she can get.”

@samimain Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.