Two accused murderers aren’t letting homicide charges tarnish their social media brand.
Albert Lavern Taylor, 22, and Dennis Ezell Gibbs Jr., 19, are two of three men and one 15-year-old juvenile charged with shooting another teen outside an Easley, South Carolina, bowling alley on Wednesday. The four stand accused of murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and assault and third-degree battery by mob. But when they appeared in court the day after the shooting, Taylor and Gibbs were chipper and ready to Snapchat.
“Your honor, I have a question. What are these cameras for?” Taylor asked a judge during a Thursday bond hearing.
“It’s the news media,” the judge replied.
“Oh, the news media,” Gibbs said, turning to a camera. “What’s up, y’all? Are you following me on Twitter?”
“Follow me on Instagram,” Taylor interrupted, “Snapchat.”
Fittingly, police believe a social media spat may have inspired the murder. The suspects and 17-year-old victim Kejuan Brown had allegedly argued online before meeting in person to “settle the score,” Police Chief Tim Tollison told the Greenville News.
Facebook friends of Jamari Trayvar Fair, a third man charged in the murder, suggest that he deleted a Facebook post that would implicate him in the killing.
“You can remove post but it’s never really deleted once it’s been posted PREMEDITATED MURDER,” one friend commented under Fair’s most recent profile picture.
Wednesday’s shooting is Fair’s second brush with felony charges in three months. He had been released on bond following attempted-murder charges in November, when he allegedly shot at two people.
It’s also the second time in slightly more than a year that South Carolina courts have heard Snapchat testimonies in teen murder trials. Last January, 16-year-old Matthew Fischer was visiting his girlfriend when another teen messaged her phone. Fischer’s girlfriend testified that the messages had been on Snapchat, a frustrating medium for investigators, as Snapchat messages disappear after they have been opened. The girlfriend later admitted that the conversation had taken place over Apple iMessage.
After receiving the messages, allegedly Fischer took his girlfriend’s phone, writing back, “Come over” and “I’ll kill you, man.” The other teen drove to meet Fischer, who allegedly stabbed him to death during an ensuing fight. Fischer is being tried for murder as an adult, although his lawyer is asking courts for immunity on the claim that the killing was in self-defense.
But Taylor and Gibbs’s moment in the spotlight isn’t likely to propel them to social media stardom. While imploring viewers to follow him on Twitter, Gibbs made the critical error of forgetting to give his username. And “Luca Brasi Jr.,” the Godfather-inspired name Taylor encouraged viewers to follow, is so common on Instagram that it’s nearly impossible to determine which account is his.
A social media manager might advise them to build an online following organically by choosing identifiable usernames, cultivating distinct voices, and engaging with their audience, rather than soliciting followers while appearing in court. Until their case is resolved, however, the group will likely be on social media lockdown; a judge refused to release any of them on bond.
The victim’s great-grandfather said the group’s social media references were disrespectful.
“I just wish justice will be done,” Doyle Moon, Brown’s great-grandfather, told a local Fox affiliate. “Because you would hate to see somebody do this, and then smile at you just like they haven’t did a thing.”