With or without Russian influence, Facebook has long been a breeding ground for political division.
As authorities in Florida reported this week, one such partisan argument turned violent at a residence in the Tampa area.
According to WFLA, 44-year-old Brian Sebring was arrested on Monday after he allegedly carried a firearm to the home of 46-year-old Alex Stephens and opened fire.
The altercation seems to have been rooted in an escalating war of words that began on the social media site. Authorities believe Sebring was motivated to visit the victim’s home after Stephens sent increasingly threatening messages online.
“After receiving several explicit messages and threats, the defendant responded to the victim’s home to confront him reference the messages,” police reported, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
It was unclear from available reports what issue sparked the vehement dispute.
Social media profiles indicate the alleged shooter is a married father of two and a registered Democrat. Both he and Stephens attended Robinson High School in Tampa. Records reveal Stephens is a convicted felon but do not show a political party affiliation.
Though investigators describe Stephens as the victim in the shooting, they say both men likely contributed to the rhetorical escalation that precipitated it.
Police reports indicate Sebring cited concern that the meeting would escalate to violence in defending his decision to carry a firearm.
He allegedly parked outside of the other man’s home and began blowing his truck’s horn. When Stephens eventually came outside and began running toward him, Sebring said he fired twice.
Stephens was hit with both shots, sustaining injuries to his right thigh and buttocks.
The shooter fled the scene in his vehicle but police say he was later identified by the victim. Investigators say Stephens was able to escape the immediate vicinity on foot following the shooting.
“The victim ran away and the defendant fled the scene,” according to a police report.
He was transported from an area near the scene to Tampa General Hospital for treatment of his injuries and is expected to recover.
Sebring later surrendered to police on suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
He was then taken into custody and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail. A judge set his bond at $9,500.
A neighbor witnessed the shooting and told local reporters that it initially appeared to be a fireworks display.
“I was just thinking it had to be fireworks,” the witness said. “I thought it was 4th of July. I looked down at my phone: Am I missing some holiday? Should I have off tomorrow?”
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