Three South Florida men have been charged in connection with a widely viewed video showing a shark being dragged behind a fast-moving boat.
Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto, Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton, and Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto, were all charged with multiple crimes in connection with the video and other social media posts.
The charges came after a four-month investigation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.
"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," said Commission Chairman Bo Rivard.
"We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our law enforcement investigators worked with the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication. It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated."
All three men face two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty.
Benac and Wenzel were also charged with one count of misdemeanor illegal method of taking.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott released the following statement on the charges:
“I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year. Florida has no tolerance for this mistreatment, and I am proud of the hard work of FWC law enforcement during this investigation to hold these individuals accountable for their horrific actions.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.