An interesting fringe benefit to having what has to be the coolest job in Augusta media is that just when I think I have heard it, seen it or read it all, some group of idiots jump up and remind me why it rarely sucks to do what I do.
There are actually human beings out there, living and breathing, upright and apparently conscious, who think it was wrong of me to repost pictures originally posted on the Facebook pages of the young man accused in the weekend drive-by shooting near Regal Cinemas on Agerton Lane.
I would like to take this opportunity and column space to invite those individuals to pick a nice quiet corner and go have an intimate moment with themselves.
Police say 17-year-old Brandon Hilton, believed to be part of a group calling themselves The Cloud Gang got into a “tiff” with another organization of young scholars at a nearby convenience store. No doubt they were debating the controversial scorekeeping at a recent Literary Meet or some such. Moments later, cops say Hilton opened fire from a passing SUV, sending five bullets into a vacant building, a parked car and the very crowded Jimmy John’s restaurant. Hit in the upper chest and seriously but not mortally wounded was one of his 14-year-old apparent targets.
It did not take long for the big mouths connected to the tiny brains connected to this drive-by to implicate Hilton as the trigger man, and quicker than you can say “scattershot” the wannabe gangsta was sitting behind some very real bars.
That is when it started to get fun for me. As soon as his name hit the street, I was getting messages and emails from his former classmates and neighbors saying I had to check out Brandon’s Facebook page. It appeared to me that it was all there. Pictures of the teenager flashing guns, popping gang signals, smoking dope and showing off more cash in one hand than most adults make in two months.
The audacity was impressive. Completely idiotic, but impressive. Al Capone was never so bold because, honestly, Capone was never that stupid. As far as society goes, we can at least be happy that what these young punks apparently have in firepower and money they seem in equal proportion to lack in common sense and self-preservation. I say, if they want to offer their dirty laundry up for the world to see it, I am more than happy to provide one of the first outlets to give them that glory.
A cop told me there was about 100 investigative man hours worth of information in the pictures they collected off dip-shizzle’s Facebook page in about 28 seconds. The Gang Task Force was called in almost immediately. Oh, and that must have been when one of Brandon’s best buds, 16-year-old Khalil Baker, decided he wanted to see what the inside of a jail cell looked like for his-own-self.
Baker apparently took exception to the fact that anyone west of East Boundary, or north of Gordon Highway would ever see the prized collection of “Thug of the Month Club” photos posted by Brandon and his confederates, so he decided to come after me. Or at least threaten to come after me.
Monday afternoon, young Master Baker became the fourth person who has been arrested and charged with making terroristic threats against me and my family since 1994. Two of the fools did hard jail time, the third I allowed to plea down because it was clear he was just running his mouth and not serious. I guess we will see what happens to this latest award winner.
Funny thing about Baker: he clearly did not learn anything from Brandon’s example. He had a few choice pictures of himself in full “criminal mode” on his Facebook page as well, which I was happy to present to the investigating police officers from Columbia County that took him into custody shortly thereafter. Less than 16 hours after he made the threat, he was in the pokey. A few hours after that, the Richmond County Gang Task Force was sticking another three or four more of the chorus in the backs of paddy wagons, all charged in connection with the Agerton Lane shooting. I have been told they are all singing on each other like a reunion of The Osmond Brothers. (They were the white version of The Jackson Five, for all my friends of color out there.)
Speaking of the Po-Po (that would be the police, for my white friends out there), while they love all the assistance social media (like Facebook) gives them as they assemble their cases, they hate like Hell for us in traditional media to talk about it. They say it puts the “smart ones” off the grid. The good news is, there don’t seem to be many smart ones out there. And they sure don’t seem to listen to talk radio, or read newspapers much, so I think the investigative secrets are safe for now.
Let me state for the record, as long as dumbass criminals post their illicit criminal aspirations and activities all over the world wide interwebs, you can rest assured I will be there to share them with you. If it takes locking up every punk making threats against me between here and Poughkepsie, then so be it.
They are not going to shut me up, and they will never shut me down. I am more than ready, willing and able to shine the light on every fool who is dumb enough to put his dirt on display. We may have to live with smart criminals for a good long while in this world, but we should giggle in delight with the ease that we seem to have taking out the morons.
Baker did appear before Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan last week for a preliminary hearing where bond was one of the items to be considered. The judge’s anger in viewing the incriminating pictures from the young man’s own Facebook pages was apparent, and his apparent gang affiliation was reflected in the decision to have him held without bond pending a detailed psychiatric examination.
Flanagan did make mention of the fact that “taking on a member of the media” the way Baker was attempting to do showed a particular boldness and defiance he found disturbing. The judge said if society allows the media to be intimidated or deterred from exposing and discussing crime, violence or corruption, it would strike at the very heart of our free and open way of life.
Damn straight, Judge Flanagan, and it is great to know we have people in your position who understand that.