The three men featured in a video of a shark being dragged behind a speedboat will be facing criminal charges for their actions. A four-month investigation into the incident, which many labeled as “disturbing” and was called a “shocking disregard” for the state’s “natural resources,” led to the charges, which were announced on Tuesday.
The investigation was led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which began after a video of the incident went viral on social media.
FWC and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office officials made the announcement of the charges on Tuesday evening.
Palmetto resident Michael Wenzel, 21, has been charged with two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and one count of misdemeanor illegal method of take – shark.
Bradenton resident Robert Lee Benac III, 28, is charged with the same crimes as Wenzel.
Spencer Heintz, a 23-year-old Palmetto resident, has been charged with two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty.
Speaking about the announcement, as reported by Fox 13 News, FWC Chairman Bo Rivard stated, “As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone.”
Rivard continued, “We appreciate the patience and support of the public as out law enforcement investigators worked… to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication.”
Governor Rick Scott also commented on Twitter, writing, “I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year, and I am proud of the hard work of @MyFWC law enforcement during this investigation.”
The now infamous video showed a shark being drug through the water at a high rate of speed. The clip also shows the three men smiling as the incident unfolded, with one stating, “Look, he’s almost already dead.”