NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many people saw Wednesday night’s shooting rampage in Memphis firsthand because the suspect, 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly, livestreamed it on Facebook, which experts told News 2 could be a growing trend with many repercussions.
Suspects and criminals post their crimes on social media to brag and gain notoriety, according to Dr. Ben Stickle, an associate professor of criminal justice at Middle Tennessee State University. He believes the Memphis livestream is part of a trend that has increased as more people use social media.
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“It makes sense that certain people would be drawn to posting or bragging about or streaming the activities they’re doing for the notoriety that comes with that, and for the opportunity to share or prove to people what they’ve done,” Stickle said.
Livestreaming and posting crimes committed in real-time can have consequences long after the event, according to Stickle. It can motivate copycats to commit similar crimes, show them what to do and not to do, and teach them police tactics used to solve these crimes.
While the livestreams and social media posts could give law enforcement more evidence after the fact, it can also create more frustration having to watch it happen in real-time and not having the resources to locate the suspect and stop it.
“It’s not quite as simple as it might look on TV to track down digital footprints and find where someone is and exactly what they’re doing,” Stickle said. “Some of the resources that the public might think the police have to just instantly find out who this person is and where they’re at, it’s just not really at their resources that they have. So it makes it very challenging to know that this is going on and try to stop it and find out who it is.”
According to Verna Wyatt, co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, these types of posts not only challenge police, but traumatize the victims, their families, and those watching it unfold from far away.
“When you think about all the people that were witnessing it, all the people that were impacted by seeing that happen on Facebook live, it’s like they’re there while it’s happening,” Wyatt said. “[Kelly] had so many more victims than just the ones that he engaged personally.”
Wyatt told News 2, regardless of whether Wednesday night’s shootings were livestreamed, they instilled great fear in many people in Memphis when the city was put on lockdown.
“We know it’s going to leave a trauma response,” Wyatt said. “When you have that kind of fear, it’s going to leave a mark.”
Depending on the person, the psychological effects some may suffer from as a result of the shootings could last a while, according to Wyatt.
Tennessee Voices for Victims has resources to help people suffering from trauma on the group’s website.
Memphis police have not released a motive for the shooting. Kelly remains in police custody.