Two Orange Park teenage girls posted a video online of them abusing and killing a gopher tortoise, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says is a threatened species.
After multiple complaints into FWC Tuesday night, officials started an investigation and are working with the State Attorney's Office to determine what charges will be filed.
The cellphone video shows the tortoise being lit on fire, thrown on the concrete and being stomped on until it dies. Some of the video is too graphic to show and contains vulgar language. The girls are heard laughing and talking about killing the turtle.
"Let's light his head on fire," one girl said.
"Burn baby, burn baby," one said.
"Now you're scared of us, huh?" one said.
"Ugh, I just want him to die," one said.
Ridgeview High School confirmed the two girls attend school there, but because the incident didn't happen on school property or during school hours, the school can only say they're aware and the incident is being handled by proper authorities.
Due to the open investigation by FWC and the State Attorney's Office, News4Jax is not releasing the names of the two teenagers.
The father of one of the girls spoke to News4Jax Wednesday night about the video.
The father, who did not want to be identified, said he didn’t raise his daughter to do something like this, and he said he was outraged by the acts against the small tortoise.
“They’re very remorseful for what they did,” he said. “They’re gonna go through the court system and get it all figured out OK. Whatever the court system hands down, that’s what they’re gonna do.”
The teen’s father said his family received death threats because of the video the girls posted on Facebook.
“That’s sick to do what they did,” he said. “I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it on TV, and I don’t care. I was there when they found the turtle. I was there when wildlife (came to the house and) talked for an hour. And they know that there’s gonna be a court date coming up, and it’s all going to be handled.”
The father told News4Jax that his daughter will be punished and that he’s trying to handle the fallout of what’s now happening to his family.
“They’re gonna catch the wrath of what happened,” he said. “The court’s gonna handle it. I don’t think all this damn threats that I’m getting on Facebook and all that, I’m not getting 'em. There’s no more Facebook in this house. There’s no more smartphones.”
Chyenne Padgett, 15, said she goes to school with them and cried when she saw the video online. She said she was one of the first to call police.
"It's incredibly upsetting," Padgett said. "I have two pet turtles inside my house, and as I was watching the video, all I can think about is, 'Oh my God, what if someone was doing that to my turtles?' Those are my babies. They're my favorite animal."
FWC said the turtle is a threatened gopher tortoise, one level above endangered, which makes matters even worse.
"We certainly don't want anybody hurting any animal, but they're a threatened species, and it's against the law to kill harass or destroy gopher tortoises, their eggs or their burrows," FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said.