JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Six men were arrested and three were sought by police in connection to a social media investigation focused on gun violence in Jacksonville, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
"We all know social media influences society in many ways. Most of them are positive," Williams said on Tuesday during an afternoon news conference. "But unfortunately these same advancements in technology also provide the criminal element with a new platform to promote their trade in the street culture market."
According to Williams, documented members of street gangs are using social media to threaten and intimidate others. Often, they're using music videos to relay their message.
"These videos typically glorify drug use. They celebrate violence and are often used to intimidate or threaten rival groups or gangs," Williams said.
Mayor Lenny Curry, who stood next to Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson, used the opportunity to directly address those committing violent crimes.
"To the small group of folks that are in gangs that are perpetuating this violence, to the drug dealers, to the folks that are posting on videos threats of violence, gun violence, and violent activities -- your city, the city of Jacksonville, is going to continue to bring to bear the force of every single resource that we have in collaboration with our sheriff and state attorney to make sure you are arrested, off the street and prosecuted," Curry said.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche, a fellow Republican who is challenging Curry in the upcoming mayoral race, released a scathing statement accusing Curry of playing politics with violent crime. In a statement, Brosche wrote in part:
“Like the unlimited overtime stunt pulled just days ago, today’s press conference on "Operation Rap Up" was yet another political stunt by Mayor Curry and his political allies to make it look like they are doing something about crime when by and large, they have neglected the issue for the past 4 years because these violent crimes disproportionately impact the more impoverished areas of the city."
The statement continued:
"Press conferences and preening are great for free publicity, but won’t do anything to make our communities safer. The only time Mayor Curry has shown any initiative to stop the Curry crime wave is when he needs voters to show up at the ballot box.”
Some of the videos posted on YouTube, Williams said, feature convicted felons or juvenile delinquents in possession of firearms, which is against the law.
The Sheriff's Office provided an example video:
"The groups they are affiliated with are some of the most violent in the city," Williams said. "Some of these individuals are the most violent people in these groups."
A man claiming to have recorded one of the rap videos told News4Jax he was not sure if the guns in the video he filmed were genuine. According to the Sheriff's Office, the guns were real in all the videos.
Jail records show the six men arrested were:
- Ronnie Myrick, 26, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Nicholas Parker, 28, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Christopher Parker, 29, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Tyler Jackson, 19, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Bryan Smith, 17, for possession of a weapon by a juvenile delinquent found to have committed a felony act
- Tyler Simmons, 17, for possession of a weapon by a juvenile delinquent found to have committed a felony act
The men still wanted by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office include:
- Breion Dubois, 28, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Dejuane Hayden, 24, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Keith Rivers, 22, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon