MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (CNN) – This summer, a horrifying video of a shark being dragged behind a boat sparked outrage around the world.
In response, state investigators in Florida combed through more than 60,000 pieces of evidence, most of it from social media.
Now, three men face felony charges.
On Tuesday night, FWC and the Hillsboro State Attorney’s Office charged Michael Wenzel, Robert Benac and Spencer Heintz.
“We charged the people for whom we had probable cause that they committed a crime and that we could prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” said state attorney Andrew Warren.
Officials say on June 26, the group of friends was fishing off Egmont Key.
After catching a black tip shark, the group fired bullets at it numerous times while laughing. They then dragged it at a high rate of speed while laughing some more.
Investigators determined the shark was still alive while bouncing above the waves.
“They sent me the video first and I thought, ‘wow this can’t be real, who does this?'” said Captain Mark Quarantino,
Captain Mark Quarantino, or “Mark the Shark” was the one who tipped off the authorities.
“They’re gonna get what they deserve I think,” said Quarantino. “And hopefully it’s not a slap on the wrist and that will send a clear message to anybody else who has any idea of doing this to another animal, God’s creature.”
The three men face felony charges for aggravated animal cruelty.
Investigators say the men also illegally killed the black tip shark with a speargun. The fourth man on the boat, Burns Easterling, will not be charged and authorities say he’s been cooperative in the case.