ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Two Orange Park teenage girls posted a disturbing video online of themselves torturing and killing a gopher tortoise.
The video went viral this week, sending social media into an uproar. A lot of the response to the girls was pretty nasty, but one teenager who knows them said he wants to do something positive about it.
Ashtin Erd, who said he goes to school with the girls at Ridgeview High, said he initially posted the video of the girls on his Facebook page because he didn't want it hidden. He said he wanted people to see what the girls had done.
"I don't really like what they did there," Erd said. "Personally, I'm an animal lover. I have a parrot right there and a turtle. … I wanted to keep (the video) up there (on Facebook) until I know for a fact they got what they deserved."
But Facebook deactivated his account for posting the video. Now he's back on the site with a different purpose: trying to raise money for a wildlife fund that helps protect threatened species like the gopher tortoise.
He's created a GoFundMe account to raise money for the Wildlife Foundation of Florida Inc. in Tallahassee.
But not everyone has been so positive. An online petition, started by Sarah Hill of Orange Park on Change.org, calls for the girls to be punished to the fullest extent possible. It has received more than 200 signatures.
And there's also been tons of comments spiked with language that News4Jax could never repeat. Here are a couple examples of what we can share:
"karma WILL get you if it already hasn't. and i hope you go to ***** jail for animal cruelty"
"Are you a **** moron? You deserve to rot in prison for murder."
Several family members of one of the girls said they've received death threats.
Local attorney Gene Nichols said if that's happening, the family needs to report the threats to police.
"Anybody in any situation, no matter what this gentleman's daughter may have done or what these girls have done, you need to report those to police so they can determine if a crime has been committed," Nichols said.
Nichols said even death threats on social media can be considered a crime, if the person who made the threat has the ability to carry it out.
At this point, News4Jax hasn't heard of any specific charges the girls are facing.
They could face a felony charge of animal abuse, plus an additional charge because the gopher tortoise is a threatened species. We hope to hear about that by next week.
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