CHICAGO (FOX 32 / AP) - Chicago investigators have no reason to question the authenticity of a social media posting that seems to show a man taking a selfie video being struck by gunfire, a police spokesman said Friday.
"We are confident (it) isn't a hoax," Anthony Guglielmi, the police spokesman, said in a brief statement emailed Friday afternoon.
Guglielmi said the 31-year-old victim, Brian Fields, was in critical condition in hospital. He added the man was known to police and that detectives were waiting to speak with him. Investigators were exploring whether the man videoing himself was targeted in retaliation for previous violence, he said. The gunman fled and no suspect is in custody.
While cyber-banging has been around as long as social media has, this may be the first time someone was shot while live on Facebook.
Fields was convicted of a murder in Chicago in 2005. On Thursday, he was standing outside a closed store at 56th and Hoyne when shots rang out.
Fields, known as "Sugar Ray" in the neighborhood, referenced the store being closed in his video.
“I can't be out here witout the store being open. I need somewhere to duck and hide for cover,” he said.
Desmond Patton is a professor at Columbia University.
“The fact that he mentions that he needs access to the store that was previously not open in order to duck and dive meant that he had some awareness of what could potentially happen,” Patton said.
Patton studies youth violence and the social media connections.
“It looks like one of the things he wanted to do was say to everyone, I'm here, I'm brave, I'm strong, I am so strong that I can be in a rival group's neighborhood and video tape it,” Patton said.
Police say it appears Fields was taunting his rivals. At the last second, he sees something out of the corner of his eye and then gets shot, dropping his cell phone as he ran.
The gunman then stands right over the phone and fires sixteen shots. Fields was struck five times.
A male witness who lives down the street spoke to FOX 32.
“I heard the shots, and as I heard the shots the first instinct is to just run,” the man said.
Brandon Reynolds, who works to help youth in gangs, says while the video is disturbing, there's another aspect that's equally troubling because of the long term impact.
“Youth are really desensitized to stuff like that. A lot of people posted that through Facebook, it went viral and kids were watching that and posting it and then right after that went and played video games or did whatever they wanted to do,” Reynolds said.
There is no indication that Fields was hit inadvertently or that it was a case of mistaken identity, Guglielmi said.
"He was certainly targeted," he said. "We are trying to find out why."
Among the theories investigators are considering is that the shooting might have been in retaliation for taunting rival street-gang members live online. Another possibility is that the man taking the selfie was taunting rivals after straying purposely into another gang's territory, Guglielmi said.
In gang-related shootings, investigators typically search social media sites for clues when a call comes in. In this case, they found the video on Facebook, Guglielmi said.
"More and more of these incidents either originate or escalate from some type of activity that is on a social media platform," Guglielmi said. The term police use for the phenomenon, he said, is 'cyber-banging.'
In the video, Fields glances to his right a split second before the first sounds of gunfire.
After about 30 seconds of silence, people can be heard talking about rushing to the hospital. And then a woman is heard crying and screaming, "Oh my God, no! ... I don't believe this!"