According to a report from DNAinfo's Murray Weiss, the NYPD is investigating social media death threats against cops from alleged gang members who are apparently promising to turn tonight's New Year's Eve celebrations into "Kill a Pig Night." But who are these violent tweeters? Do they exist at all?
The evidence as presented in Weiss's article points not to an orchestrated, gang-related effort to kill cops tonight, but the work of a single obsessive Instagram user and the inflammatory writings of a right-wing blogger based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Weiss's law enforcement sources report that the threats have "primarily come in tweets baring a host of vicious anti-NYPD hash tags including #@deadcopseveryday, #onlydeadcops, #wingsonpigs and #laughatyourdeaths." (#@deadcopseveryday likely contains a typo, as Twitter doesn't allow the @ symbol to be used in hashtags.) However, aside from
#wingsonpigs—a slogan that Ismaaiyl Brinsley used on Instagram before he murdered two NYPD officers earlier this month—a search for tweets that were posted before the DNAinfo article was published and contain the cited hashtags turns up only one result: an unrelated tweet in support of police from August.
It's possible that the alleged threats came from private accounts, or that Twitter has already suspended the users responsible. A Twitter spokesperson wrote via email that the company "will remove reported content that violates our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others," but did not specifically address the alleged threats.
On Instagram, the hashtags are being used by one account and one account only. According to a search, #onlydeadcops is used in just two public posts on the photo-sharing network, and #laughatyourdeaths in just one, and all were published by a single user who goes by m_d_c_.
The above anti-NYPD image macro, posted a week ago, contains all of the hashtags Weiss mentions: #wingsonpigs, #onlydeadcops, #laughatyourdeaths, and #2deadcopseveryday, a likely candidate for the apparent typo.
Is m_d_c_ the NYPD's would-be New Year's cop-killer? Weiss declined to comment when I asked whether his sources mentioned any specific users, but it seems likely. The account is filled with incitements of violence toward officers and messages of support for cop-killer Brinsley, including images that read "Keep calm and kill cops," "All my heroes kill cops," and "If a cop pulls you over, shoot him and bury the corpse." The username, m_d_c_, may reference a 1980s and '90s punk band whose full name is Millions of Dead Cops.
But while m_d_c_'s posts emphatically encourage violence against police in a vague, abstract sense, they make no specific reference to a killing on New Year's Eve. "Kill A Pig Night" and "The New Year's Massacre Eve Massacre 2014," the two phrases NYPD sources provided to Weiss, appear to stem from a two-week-old tweet by a supposed Ferguson, Mo., protester that went viral after it was published by the right-wing pro-police blog Gateway Pundit and syndicated by Alex Jones' conspiracy theorist site Infowars. Perhaps the phrases were also used by New York "gang members" on Twitter, as Weiss's report states, but I haven't been able to find any examples if that's the case.
The Gateway Pundit post that publicized the "Kill a Pig Night" tweet also makes reference to another alleged threat: a tweeted photo of Black Panthers activists holding guns, captioned with the text "Dear Police, Don't think that this can't happen again."
The only specific tweeted "threat" against NYPD officers mentioned in Weiss' report sounds suspiciously familiar:
"One tweet reads: "Dear Police, Don't think this cant happen again" accompanied by a photo of armed Blank Panthers from the 1960s and 1970s, sources say.
“@FreeTopher: Dear Police,
Dont think that this cant happen again. pic.twitter.com/sdsVPAojCD” !!!!!!
— fadumo (@_aayeitsfadumo) December 24, 2014
@aayeitsfadumo, the user mentioned in the Gateway Pundit's post, is a 19-year-old located in Seattle, according to her Twitter bio. @FreeTopher, who originally tweeted the photo on Christmas Eve, is located in "STL," according to his bio. Though the men in the photos are holding guns, construing the tweet as a direct threat against police officers in New York, Ferguson, or any other city requires a not-insignificant leap of the imagination.
m_d_c_'s Instagram account certainly warrants investigation; the user began frequently posting about killing police on the day of the Liu-Ramos murders and hasn't slowed since. But the idea that the hashtags and social media posts presented by Weiss' sources constitute an organized and actionable threat to NYPD officers on New Year's Eve is at best a poor reading of the evidence and at worst willful misdirection by the police.
[New Year's 2014 photo via AP]