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Instagram ‘troll’ charged with taunting and threatening the families of Parkland shooting victims

Instagram ‘troll’ charged with taunting and threatening the families of Parkland shooting victims

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A California man has been charged with using Instagram to stalk the families of students who were killed during last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Brandon Fleury confessed to taunting victims’ families and friends through multiple Instagram accounts, tagging them in posts and gloating about the students’ deaths. He’s accused of online harassment and intimidation as well as threatening to kidnap his targets.

According to an affidavit uploaded by HuffPost, Fleury harassed Parkland victims’ families between late December and mid-January. FBI agents and police confronted him on January 16th, and Fleury allegedly admitted he’d made the posts to “troll” and “get reactions” from his targets.

Fleury allegedly showed no remorse for his taunts

Law enforcement tied Fleury to several Instagram accounts. Several of them referenced Parkside shooter Nikolas Cruz, including “nikolas.killed.your.sister,” “nik.taunts_,” and “nikolasthemurderer.” Others referenced serial killer Ted Bundy and “movie villain” (and possibly Daredevil antagonist) Bullseye. Most of them impersonated Cruz, sending messages like “I killed your loved ones hahah” and “I killed your sister. It was fun. She had her whole life ahead of her and I fucking stole it from her. Hahaha.”

Most of the posts were taunts rather than threats, but on Christmas Day, he threatened his targets through an account impersonating Ted Bundy. “l’m your abductor ... I’m kidnapping you fool,” he wrote, adding smiling and applauding emojis. “With the power of my AR-15, you all die,” he posted through a different account, referring to the gun used in the Parkland shooting.

While the affidavit doesn’t name Fleury’s targets, they apparently included the brother, father, and best friend of Jaime Guttenberg, as well as the father of another student killed in the shooting. Fleury had apparently chosen people with large social media followings or ones involved in political activism, attempting to gain notoriety from the harassment. (Guttenberg’s father is a prominent gun control advocate.) The affidavit says that Fleury “did not show remorse for posting the comments but explained that he would not follow through on the threats he communicated.”

Fleury described his actions as “some stupid shit’’ he’d done online, although when asked whether his kidnapping statement would feel threatening to targets, he admitted, “I guess so.” Fleury is described as 21 years old in news reports, and he made the threats from his home in Santa Ana, California, where he lives with his father and brother. As The Washington Post notes, it’s not clear what penalties he’s facing, but he’s scheduled to appear in court later this month.