A 31-year-old upstate New York man who held police at bay for nearly 12 hours apparently was updating his Twitter and Facebook postings during the standoff, officials said.
Police finally used flash-bang grenades and tear gas to remove Ryan Whidden and his wife, Nina, from their home, where Whidden barricaded the pair after discharging a firearm into his own cars in his driveway.
During the ordeal, during which nearby residents were evacuated from the neighborhood, Whidden appeared to mock police, who were speaking to him through a bullhorn.
“I love the robo voice,” he wrote on Facebook shortly before 10:00 am on Monday, roughly 40 minutes after barricading himself in his home with his wife.
He then “liked” his own status, before commenting, at 9:57 a.m., “You all can handle my lightwork [sic].”
Other status updates apparently removed from the account, but which were screen-captured and uploaded by morning-show listeners to local radio station 98.9 The Buzz, were much more ominous.
“You have no clue how long I waited for this day,” Whidden, whose Facebook account says he is a veteran of the United States Army, posted on Facebook. “[M]an the contrast in flavor is sweeter than I imagined.”
He went on to write, “[Expletive] me sideways I have missed killing things.”
Bizarrely, he appears to have gone on to comment on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, sometime after that before sharing the status update again. And a post to his Twitter account, dated Sunday evening but shared on Monday, defends Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
“I am curious how many people calling you stupid, immature or anything never go above the speed limit,” Whidden wrote to Suh’s Twitter account. “[I'm] not holding my breath.”
Whidden was charged with criminal possession of a weapon. He has been arraigned and remanded to the Ontario County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond. Even as he awaits trial, however, the incident that has put him behind bars is actively being discussed on Facebook, blurring the line between news and popular culture.
“Maybe he heard a noise outside and he was just [following] Joe Biden’s instructions,” wrote one listener to the Buzz morning show on the show’s Facebook fan page. Biden has famously said for those who feel they need to protect themselves to go “Buy a shotgun.”
“He likes his own status… lol,” wrote another.
“People, he does NOT look like a psycho,” wrote yet another. “That is what is scary. This shows that even the most innocuous neighbor can be crazy when pushed to the edge.”
Further commentary on the page turned to speculation over the cause of the incident, including unconfirmed allegations that Whidden thought his wife was having, or planning, an extramarital affair. Nina Whidden’s photograph, reposted from her Facebook account, drew often vulgar responses from the Internet audience.
“She looks stoned,” wrote the first respondent, before the comments quickly turned sexual. “She is what you call good from a far,” read a follow-up comment, “but far from good.”
Rochelle Peachey, a relationship and couples counselor who founded the dating site I Love Your Accent, calls this phenomenon “keyboard bravery,” which could be applied both to Whidden’s online bravado and to the vicious commentary of bystanders that followed.
“Keyboard gangsters are [are] people who become extremely vocal when hiding in the computer,” Peachey told WND. “Typing things you would not dream of saying in person, suddenly you are a militant, tell it like is, don’t mess with me warrior. No one can touch you in the computer but then you see them and it’s on.”
As social media becomes ever more entwined in citizens’ daily lives, both the real-time updating of crimes and Internet-driven analysis after the fact is becoming more common.
Already, police are using Facebook to solicit crime tips and gather supporting data on criminal behavior. At least one federal court has ruled that the expectation of privacy ends when you share your data with friends through social media.
As in Ryan and Nina Whidden’s case, “for all the world to see” extends to crimes as they happen.
Occasionally, however, it ends on a more positive note, as in the case of famed Mixed Martial Artist Renzo Gracie. Gracie beat down a would-be mugger in New York City and then tweeted the hapless man’s image.
“This one asks me why did I do that,” Renzo typed on the micro-blogging site, “pretending to be stupid, one little kick to the ribs makes him whine and apologize, as I’m writing this.”