PnB Rock’s killing heightens worries about social media

One of the first things attorney Dawn Florio told PnB Rock when she first started representing the rapper was to be careful about what he posted on social media and when.

Avoid sharing a specific location until you’ve gone and never post your current location, Florio recalls telling him to.

“You can’t tell people where you’re going to be,” she said.

On Monday, Rock had lunch at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in south Los Angeles.

He was killed in a botched robbery after being targeted for his jewelry, police said. A suspect brandished a firearm inside the restaurant and demanded items from Rock, who was shot dead after a brief struggle with the assailant.

Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that Los Angeles Police Department are investigating whether the murder stemmed from an Instagram post by the rapper’s girlfriend who geotagged Roscoe’s on Main Street and Manchester Avenue. It was shared minutes before the shooting.

Police said they are looking for the shooter and are trying to determine a motive, so it could take time to know what the post’s role was in the killing of the 30-year-old rapper, whose real name was Rakim Allen. But the shooting has reignited discussion about the dangers of real-time social media use by celebrities posting about their locations and luxury goods.

This has been a problem for more than a decade, dating back to a group of young LA thieves known as the Bling Ring, who targeted celebrities’ homes after seeing their jewelry and other valuables on social media posts had.

More recently, in 2020, rapper Pop Smoke was shot and killed in a botched rental car robbery in Hollywood Hills. The young Brooklyn rapper, whose real name is Bashar Jackson, had posted a photo of a black Amiri gift bag with the address of the rental apartment where he lived. Police say a 15-year-old saw the post and hatched a plan with three others to steal the rapper’s gold chain and diamond-encrusted watch, leading to the murder.

Police say such social media-related crimes are rare. But Moore said he was concerned about the proliferation of guns on the streets, used by robbers who target victims for high-value jewelry.

Florio doesn’t think Rock was targeted for the Instagram post.

“I think he was probably being followed. It doesn’t make sense to me that the killers followed her social media posts,” Florio said. “What his girlfriend did was very innocent. I can’t blame her for that.”

Separately, police are investigating whether the post led to Rock’s murder.

The rapper “was with his family — his girlfriend or some kind of friend of his — and while they’re there they’re enjoying a simple meal, [he] was brutally attacked by a person who apparently [came] after a social media post about the location,” Moore said.

The murders of Pop Smoke and Rock illustrate a Los Angeles trend of follow-home robberies and other violent attacks, some of which were specifically aimed at rappers.

Wakko the Kid was shot dead at his North Hollywood home on September 1 and told the Times he believes the attack came after he showed money and jewelry on social media accounts.

“It’s a popular thing in hip-hop and pop culture to show off wealth and new clothes and jewelry and nice cars,” the rapper said Monday. “It’s all part of it; it’s glitz and glamour.”

Celebrity rappers Nicki Minaj and Cardi B took to Twitter to find out if Rock was being targeted for his girlfriend’s post — or if he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“After Pop Smoke, there’s no way we as rappers or our loved ones can post locations of our whereabouts anymore. To show off waffles and fried chicken????!” Minaj tweeted.

Cardi clapped back that the crime probably had more to do with the neighborhood than the girlfriend’s Instagram post.

“He was in a bad place and people stay out to make plans. Blaming her for something so tragic is very irresponsible and inconsiderate,” Cardi B tweeted.

Florio says there’s a common denominator in the spate of crimes against rappers.

“If you have jewelry, you’re a target,” she said.

The dangers of real-time social media posting raise security issues for anyone with a sizeable online following.

A burglary crew with ties to a south LA gang tracked celebrities’ posts and noticed when they would be away from home, then took off, prosecutors said in 2018. The group also targeted the San Fernando Valley -Los Angeles dodger Yasiel Puig’s home from rapper Chief Keef. In those cases, the gang tried to avoid confrontations by targeting the homes even though they knew the celebrities would not be around, authorities said.

Even the Kardashian family said they changed the way they used social media after Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris in 2016. One of the alleged participants in the armed robbery said he and his crew followed their movements online and through social media.

“We’ve been able to adjust the way we post and make some changes [on social media], but there’s no way I want this to touch the heart of the family,” matriarch Kris Jenner said in 2016. “You’re putting your life out there in real time. We are taking a lot more caution now.”

A problem that influencers who live their lives under the eyes of internet strangers are familiar with. Keeping their location and personal information private can help prevent stalking, doxxing, harassment — or worse.

“You have to be extra careful with real-time posts,” said Brian Nelson, who works with influencers through his marketing agency Network Effect. “What I tell them is to capture everything on the camera roll and then post it after they leave the place.”

Times contributors Brian Contreras and Salvador Hernandez contributed to this report. PnB Rock’s killing heightens worries about social media

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