Police use social media as a tool to help keep officers safe
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Police say although they are aware of robbery suspect Byron Michael Fairly because of the rap video he posted on Facebook, it had nothing to do with his arrest.
Fairly is accused of robbing a Bancorp South bank Wednesday morning.
According to Sgt. Damon McDaniel, Fairley, 23, pointed the gun at a teller and demanded money. After grabbing cash from the bank, Fairley reportedly ran from the building, but not before his image was captured by surveillance cameras.
McDaniel says investigators later learned the gun used in the holdup was actually a BB gun.
After receiving a description of the suspect, officers spotted Fairley near Klein Rd. and Clarence Dr. McDaniel said Fairley ran from officers, but was later found in a wooded area near Harris Dr. Investigators said Fairley was unarmed when police found him.
McDaniel says Gulfport police became familiar with Fairley after he posted a disturbing rap video to Facebook on July 16. The video was made in an overflow parking lot just a few hundred yards away from police headquarters in downtown Gulfport.
Similar videos on social media are nothing new to the Gulfport Police Department. Officials say social media is an important tool to keep officers safe. Although Fairly's video graphically mentions how it's better for the police to be dead than him, Gulfport police officials are taking care not to overreact.
"It's so difficult to say when you have an era in which people are wanting to have their own views expressed, and they want to do it in such a way that they touch very many people. To label somebody as a permanent threat is very difficult," said Deputy Chief Chris Loposser.
Because social media doesn't allow for a cooling off process, the question remains whether the video was a threat; rather than a first amendment right.
"People are venting on social media right away, so that all has to be taken into account," Loposser said. "But social media, once it hits there, it's open to the world and it never goes away."
Even so, care must be taken.
"Any time we get anything like that we want to take everybody at their word," Loposser said. "So if they are saying threatening things or being threatening, we always have to take them seriously. And we always want to let every officer know to give them every advantage."
However, Loposser says putting people on a watch list based on their social media posts is extreme.
"We don't go at it as hey, they're on this permanent list where we're going to track these people down," Loposser said. "It's simply something for us to be mindful for to make sure officers can be safe as possible."
Loposser added that while police do monitor social media, much of the information received comes from concerned residents. The key, he says, in determining danger is if a person shows an immediate potential to complete a threat.
Fairley is charged with armed robbery, and his bond was set at $200,000.
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