FWC official said the suspects have all turned themselves in and bonded out.
Three Manatee County men will be charged in connection to a video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office today announced.
The charges resulted from a four-month long investigation into the video and other images on social media.
The shark-dragging incident was captured on video and emerged in late July. It showed at least four young men dragging a shark behind a speeding boat. The shark was being beaten by the waves.
“As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,” said FWC Commission Chairman Bo Rivard in a press release. “We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our law enforcement investigators worked with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication."
"It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.”
According to the release, the FWC investigation confirmed multiple criminal violations, resulting in felony and misdemeanor charges. Investigators researched the suspects’ social media activity, conducted interviews and spoke with a number of subject matter experts on sharks.
FWC Public Information Coordinator Rob Klepper said the suspects have all turned themselves in and bonded out.
The video garnered local and national attention, prompting the cancellation of a premier event watch party for the MTV reality series “Siesta Key,” of which cast members were believed to be involved. It also lead to death threats against cast members and individuals believed to be affiliated with the video.
In a now-deleted Instagram comment on a post promoting the premiere of “Siesta Key,” cast member Alex Kompothecras acknowledged his relationship with an individual in the shark-dragging video but distanced himself from the incident.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with the shark video," Kompothecras wrote. "Yes he's a friend of mine, but I don't agree with what he did.”
Several of the posts linking Kompothecras and the people in the shark-dragging video — most of which were on Instagram accounts — have also been deleted.
"Kompothecras was not involved in this incident," Klepper wrote an email. "The fourth individual in the video provided information and cooperated with investigators and is not being charged in this case."
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