Three men charged in shark dragging after video went viral

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"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", FWC Chairman Bo Rivard said.

All three face felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty, the channel said, which means they could face up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $10,000 (£7,500) or both, according to lawyer Andrew Stine.

FWC said that the charges stemmed from a four-month long investigation into the video and "other disturbing images on social media involving shocking disregard for Florida's natural resources".

"It was an assuagement to not only Florida Fish and Wildlife but also the State Attorney that the community stands behind the actions they are taking", said Carrinton Cox, with Stand Up Fight Back SRQ, an organization that helped with the protests and petitions, adding the video is still upsetting. Wenzel and Benac will face an additional misdemeanor charge of illegal method of take-shark, a law pertaining to how sharks may be fished.

In an FWC press release, those three men were named as 28-year-old Robert Lee Benac of Bradenton, 23-year-old Spencer Heintz of Palmetto, and 21-year-old Michael Wenzel of Palmetto as well. It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behaviour involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated'. Wenzel's father is Robert Wenzel, the Manatee County planning section manager; Benac's mother is Betsy Benac, chairwoman of the Manatee County Commission. Among the events recorded, the affidavit noted, were the men shooting a black nose shark with a spear gun and then dancing on the bow of the boat.

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Wenzel shot at the shark three more times.

"After the shark is shot", the affidavite notes, "all occupants are heard celebrating by laughing while Heinz yells, ‘Get it again!"

In July, Miami charter fisherman Mark Quartiano posted a graphic video of a boat speeding through the ocean with a shark tied to the back, flopping around in the wake. In addition to the shark being dragged, investigators say it was also unlawfully taken by speargun.

Heintz's criminal history includes minor boating infractions while Wenzel has a prior arrest for underage drinking. carrying a concealed weapon and possession of false identification.

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