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Politics

Manatee County State Attorney's Office Investigating Shark Dragging Video

August 10, 2017 - 1:45pm

The Manatee County State Attorney’s Office is now investigating a video of Florida fishermen brutally dragging a shark behind their boat at a high speed after the 11-second clip went viral, igniting a firestorm of controversy and outrage worldwide. 

The county’s animal abuse unit confirmed it was working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s investigation, which has been underway for several weeks.
 
“When I look at the pictures, I can’t believe that someone could show such blatant indifference to these remarkable creatures,” Andrew Van Sickle of the county's animal abuse unit told WFLA Thursday. “The true sport fisherman I know respect Mother Nature and operate with some care and concern. Even my seven-year-old daughter thanks each fish she catches before returning it back to the water.”

The short video, which many have speculated was shot in Florida waters, shows the shark flailing furiously as it's dragged at high speed behind the powerboat, presumably to its death.
 
No state agency has publicly identified the men, but social media users were quick to figure out who, exactly, was behind the disturbing video.
 
Two Manatee County men -- Michael Wenzel and Robert Lee "Bo" Benac -- are said to have posted a video of the incident on social media.
 
One of the men on the boat filmed the incident on his smartphone; all of the young fishermen seem amused as the shark is repeatedly catapulted into the air, crashing down on the water over and over again while the boat’s engine continues to roar. 
 
More photos of apparent animal abuse surfaced, showing the men and their friends shooting hammerhead sharks, posing with dead pelicans and funneling beer into fishes’ mouths -- and prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to expand their investigation 
 
Van Sickle said it was highly possible the photos and videos violated state laws, but was less certain whether the State Attorney would be able to press charges.

“The photographs, if proven, demonstrate several violations,” Van Sickle. “For example, possession of a Goliath grouper, tarpon, etc. Whether we are able to charge the crimes is still under investigation.”

Still, Van Sickle said, it was evident the fishermen had wronged the environment and the animals who call Florida waters their home.

“Regardless of whether we are able to criminally charge the individuals involved in the incident(s), the pictures and videos prove how much damage one person can do to our natural resources,” said Van Sickle.

Public outcry over the video has grown in recent days, prompting nearly 250,000 people to sign a Change.org petition demanding the men in the video perform community service hours, receive jail time for the act of brutality against the shark and lose their license to fish.

The group responsible for the petition is also considering holding a protest demanding the FWC charge the fishermen for their alleged crimes. 

State lawmakers are also wading into the controversy.

State Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, told constituents last week she found the shark-dragging incident “unfortunate,” and vowed to fight back.

“If current law ... does not find this to be a prosecutable crime, I will present a bill this session that brings more clarity,” Miller promised on Facebook. 

The incident took place in Miller's district, and the issue of animal welfare has always been near the top of her agenda.

Van Sickle said the FWC and the Manatee State Attorney's Office's investigations were ongoing. 
 
 "These investigations are complex, and both the FWC and the State Attorney's Office appreciate the public's understanding and patience," Van Sickle said. "We take these incidents seriously, and this investigation is moving forward."


 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.


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Comments

At a minimum they should lose the PRIVILEGE of a fishing or hunting license for life. I personally would like to see a jail sentence, forfeiture of the boat used in making the video, and a huge fine. These guys free reign of torturing and abusing innocent animals needs to be over.

Well said.

It is a shame for all FL sportsman to see this type of idiocy. To say they cannot be prosecuted is cowardly. Leave it to some wing nut to bring up Obama...

I WILL TIE THEM TO A BOAT, DRAG THEM AND MURDER THEM, WHILE THEY SUFFER A LONG SLOW MISERABLE DEATH. FUCK THESE PUSSEYS. MAY THEY DROP DEAD ROT IN HELL. I WANT TO KILL THEM WITH MY BARE HANDS, I WILL GO TO JAIL FOR IT BUT IT IS WORTH IT.

Your words in GOD's ears!!! I've been thinking the same for a long time, as the 1st thought that comes to mind. Whenever I read about another neglect, abuse and/or killing of HUMAN & NON-HUMAN BEINGS/ANIMALS!!! An eye for an eye, as the old testament, I believe, states. However, sinking to the level of these soulless MONSTERS, and that's what they are, not HUMANS, will make us no better than them! However, they, as any other VIOLENT CRIMINAL, BE THAT INTENTIONAL NEGLECT, ABUSE/TORTURE, AND/OR SUBSEQUENT KILLING OF HELPLESS VICTIMS, should serve life in PRISON! Together with other MONSTERS like them! Not to be mixed in with NON-VIOLENT offenders, who should serve their Punishment in separate Prisons! And the Prisons for these VIOLENT MONSTERS should be HIGHEST SECURITY PRISONS! Without any ability to have any contact with the outside world. Let them do to their fellow prisoners what they did to their victims and vice versa! Would be interesting to see how JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED to all of them! That's the kind of punishment these MONSTERS deserve for their VIOLENT CRIMES AGAINST ALL SENTIENT BEINGS!!!

Believe the bottom line is that it is hard to prosecute someone for being a not very bright sadistic asshole.

Are you kidding me? They taped the ENTIRE Egregious actions w/o FEAR of getting punished! That in itself is a slap in the face of our entire Justice System!!! No MONSTER should get away with what they did to helpless animals. People will be next! I don't care if some idiots want to write their despicable actions of sadistic torture and killing of these innocent animals as some kind of a prank! This goes way beyond committing a prank!!! And they should be sentenced to life w/o Parole. Serving their sentence with other MONSTERS! Apart from Non-Violent criminals. And we'll see who's going to have the final laugh about their actions! I doubt they'll continue to laugh about their horrific actions then! And let Prison justice for these soulless MONSTERS be the final ruling.

That's exactly the reason we need "term limits"; otherwise it's almost impossible to pull sucking politicians from the "government mammary"! ! !

I wholeheartedly agree that there MUST BE Term limits for Politicians that were voted into office! A US President can only serve 2 4yr terms. Then the position must go to another elected President! They same should apply to EVERY OTHER PERSON serving us, the people! All the way down to the Local levels! And once they've reached a predetermined term limit, every single elected Representative MUST RETIRE from their position and make room for other elected Officials serving our Country and represent the people's wishes that voted them into office, not that of Corporations and other self-serving Lobbyists!

Good.

Now we know that the law enforcement agencies aren't even sure. There will be an answer and possibly new laws next session. That will be fun watching. Will live bait be a point of contention?

No I don't think so because the live bait will be those three a**holes. Intentional torture, the same torture they should do to ISIS and some of the Obama administration.

Let's not forget some members of our newly elected Government, PLEASE!

Let's not forget some members of our newly elected Government, PLEASE!

Why this reply was posted twice is a Mystery to me. And no way to delete a duplicate post?

Comments are now closed.

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