A new law in Florida enacted after the horrific mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year has prompted the arrest of a Florida-based rapper.
On Tuesday, deputies from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 26-year-old rapper living in Ocala, Florida. The reason for the arrest: he threatened a mass shooting at a University of Florida football game and potentially a night club in one of his raps. Under revised Florida laws, threatening a mass shooting is a potential criminal offense.
In a report on the controversy surrounding the case, the Gainesville Sun‘s Cindy Swirko provides some details about the context and content of the rapper’s song. In a March 22 Facebook post, the rapper posted lyrics criticizing another rapper about whom he threatened to “catch you at a Gator game and shoot the whole campus up.”
The post reportedly specifically cited the competing rapper’s performance scheduled for the next day, suggesting he might take action at the venue. No violence occcurred at the event, Swirko reports.
“Under Florida statutes, threatening to kill or injure someone is a felony, as is writing, composing, sending or procuring something that indicates the person will conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism, sheriff’s Lt. Brett Rhodenizer said,” writes Swirko.
Rhodenizer told Swirko that while he had not “listened to the entire song,” what appears to have prompted the arrest was the specificity of the rapper’s threats.
“My understanding is it was very specific as to locations … and concurrent with an upcoming concert,” he said. “When the court process continues … and if ultimately this is not a level of proof where he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s the way the system is supposed to work. But is it probable cause to make an arrest in the interest of public safety? I think so.”
The Associated Press and the Sun stress the similarities of the accusations against the Ocala rapper with that of a Pennsylvania-based rapper who was convicted for making terroristic threats against specific police officers in his songs, calling on his followers to “kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”
Swirko quotes State Attorney Bill Cervone, who explained the revision of the law post-Parkland, and predicted an “inevitable” challenge in court soon. “Last year the statute was amended to make it easier to proceed against someone making those threats,” he said. “It’s a modern version of what we’ve always had — you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.” The law, he suggested, is “overly broad” and “vague.”
The mass shooting in Parkland on February 14, 2018, was met with widespread outrage in the community, in part because of the warning signs exhibited by the shooter (whose name is here withheld per Daily Wire policy on mass killers) and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s failure to take appropriate action to protect the community. The modification of Florida statutes on threatening language was intended to make it easier for law enforcement to preemptively respond to potential threats.