Rapper Silento charged with murder in cousin’s shooting death

Publicist says DeKalb County native has history of mental illness
Ricky Lamar Hawk, aka Silento, was booked into the DeKalb County Jail on murder charges.

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Ricky Lamar Hawk, aka Silento, was booked into the DeKalb County Jail on murder charges.

Rapper Silento, known for his hit song and viral dance craze “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae),” was arrested Monday in DeKalb County and charged with murder in the death of his cousin, authorities said.

Ricky Lamar Hawk, 23, is accused of shooting 34-year-old Frederick Rooks multiple times outside a home in the Panthersville area last month. Hawk was booked into the DeKalb jail Monday night and is being held without bond on the single murder charge, jail records show.

Little was known about Rooks’ slaying when his body was discovered Jan. 21 lying in the middle of a road.

“However, after a thorough investigation, DKPD detectives identified Hawk as Rooks’ cousin, and the person responsible for Rooks’ murder,” DeKalb police spokeswoman Michaela Vincent said. “Investigators are still working to uncover the motive for the shooting.”

Chanel Hudson, who identified herself as Hawk’s publicist, is asking for prayer for the rapper and his family. She described Hawk as “a beautiful soul.”

“Over the past several years, Ricky has been suffering immensely from a series of mental health illnesses,” Hudson said in a statement posted to Instagram. “We will continue in his efforts of treatment, but we ask in the meantime the public uplift him and his family in immediate prayer.”

Rooks was pronounced dead Jan. 21 when police arrived on Deep Shoals Circle shortly after 3:30 a.m. to investigate a report of shots fired. He had multiple gunshot wounds to his face and his leg, and officers found eight spent shell casings lying nearby, according to a police report released Monday.

He was identified from his driver’s license in his wallet, which was still in his front pocket.

Investigators said they believed Rooks knew the residents at one of the houses on the street.

“I think it is connected to this house,” Lt. Rod Bryant said at the time. “We’re still doing a little bit more investigation. The people in the house know him, but he really don’t live there, so we’re trying to see what’s going on.”

At the time, investigators had no information about the suspect.

Responding officers were able to gather video from multiple residents’ security cameras, according to the report. The video showed several cars fleeing the scene at high speeds, and the footage captured at least one gunshot.

Hawk, the only person who has been arrested in the case, rose to fame as a teenage rap sensation in 2015. His “Watch Me” video has been viewed nearly 1.8 billion times on YouTube.

Hawk has been in police custody multiple times in recent months. He was arrested twice in one week in August on domestic violence and gun charges in California. In late October, he was arrested and booked into the DeKalb jail on charges that he was speeding at more than 140 mph on I-85. According to the police report, he told officers that he was speeding because people were following him.

The incident report quoted Hawk as saying, “If there is like 10 cars following me, I can do 143 because I am not a regular person, and you could go look on your computer and it would tell you that.”

He was released the same day on a signature bond, jail records show. Charges are still pending in that case.

In 2017, Hawk was temporarily banned from leaving the United Arab Emirates after a dispute about two performances that a promoter said the rapper failed to perform. He has also lent his talents to some charitable initiatives, including a video encouraging DeKalb school students to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test and an anti-vaping campaign.

Hawk was raised in Stone Mountain and is a graduate of Redan High School in DeKalb. After releasing his hit song in 2015, he told the AJC that he put “Watch Me” on YouTube to prove his doubters wrong after losing his high school talent show. He released his first album, “Fresh Outta High School,” in August 2018, several years after the meteoric rise of his first single.

One year later, Hawk appeared on an episode of “The Doctors” talk show to discuss his battle with depression, which he said was never diagnosed. With the success of “Watch Me,” he found fame overnight, but he said that high didn’t last long.

The pressure only intensified, he said in a videotaped interview.

“I’ve been fighting demons my whole life. My whole life,” Hawk said. “I was born with weed, coke, heroin, pills, all type of drugs in my system. I saw family members talking to walls. I watched family members fight. I watched family members try to kill each other. Nobody should have to watch that.”

Hawk said he wanted to publicly acknowledge his mental health issues as a first step to seeking professional help and to encourage others to do the same.

— Staff writer Chelsea Prince contributed to this article.