JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the arrests of six documented gang members on illegal firearm possession charges, Jacksonville prosecutors now have the job of determining whether the firearms they appear to be holding in various music videos are real guns. It could be critical for the charges to lead to convictions.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the rap videos helped lead to the arrests in "Operation Rap Up" because the men are convicted felons and by law can't be in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors will have to prove the guns are real, and according to a firearms expert at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, "A definitive identification of an object as a firearm is not possible," when referring to the music videos.
News4Jax spoke to the owner of a property on Phelps Street, where at least one music video was shot. He declined an interview, but said the guns "looked pretty real."
According to the music video producer, he told police he "checked the firearms to make sure they were not loaded."
Attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters, who is not affiliated with any case involving the operation, said ex-felons can not handle loaded or unloaded weapons. She added that State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who was noticeably silent during Tuesday's news conference on "Operation Rap Up," might have additional evidence that wasn't publicly revealed.
According to Peoples-Waters, just the appearance of holding a weapon constitutes probably cause, and in one case when they arrested Christopher Parker at the Phelps Street address, investigators found "an AK-style rifle and magazine" along with drugs.
"Because of the video, it looks like they were able to obtain a search warrant, and then upon execution of that search warrant the officers go in and find rifles and drugs," she said. "In that case, you're not talking about what you just see in the video. They actually have tangible evidence to support those charges."
News4Jax asked the state attorney's office if investigators have any more evidence beyond what's visible in the music videos. A spokesperson could not comment, calling the investigations "ongoing."