How Instagram Became the Epicenter of a Violent Gang War

Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, posts, and private messages—these alleged violent gang members used them all.
September 7, 2021, 4:11pm
Guns on Instagram
Image: A screenshot of an Instagram Story included in the court document.
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On an Instagram Live video, Teshae and Quishawn Hanna, two men from Milwaukee, showed off their AR-15 style rifles and handguns to one another. Both were alleged members of the Wild 100's, a gang in the city that was in the middle of a violent feud with another criminal group called the Ghetto Boys Clique, including shootouts at funerals of slain members.

There was one thing the brothers were careful to not broadcast on Instagram Live, however.

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"I aint gonna show the switches on the live though I ain't gone lie," Quishawn said. Switches here refer to a converter that changes a Glock handgun into an unregistered fully automatic weapon, something that the pair couldn't legally own.

As they spoke, Richard E. Connors, a Special Agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, quietly watched. He had been monitoring the Wild 100's for months, specifically on Instagram.

"I have been consistently live-tracking and reviewing social media accounts, including the Target Accounts, for approximately five months," he wrote in a search warrant application trying to get Instagram to hand over data on the brothers and another alleged Wild 100's member called Larry G. Hamilton. "In that timeframe, I have observed known Wild 100’s members consistently post, brag, and tag each other in firearms activity, including federal firearms offenses, at least once a week. I have observed Teshae Hanna, Quishawn Hanna, and Larry G. Hamilton discuss the sale and possession of firearms, including firearms with conversion devices, through the Target Accounts."

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Crime is a fact of life on social media, like it is on any communication platform. But the court document shows just how entrenched criminals have become on Instagram, using essentially every Instagram feature available to them—private messages, public posts, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Live—to flex their muscle, trade in weapons, and intimidate their rivals.

"You show the back man motherfucker prolly go federal," Teshae Hanna added on the Instagram Live, referring to the Glock converters.

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A screenshot of Instagram chat logs included in the court document. Image: Motherboard.

In private messages, which investigators obtained in another legal request to Instagram, Teshae asked Hamilton "Who got heat for sell," referring to firearms.

"Yo this one ready," Hamilton responded several days later. Hamilton, meanwhile, was discussing weapon sales with several other Instagram users, including the trade of a "Chopp," a term for an AK or AR-style rifle, according to the search warrant application.

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A screenshot of an Instagram Story included in the court document. Image: Motherboard.

On Instagram Stories, Teshae shared a photo of an assortment of weapons laying on a wooden floor, including handguns with accompanying fully-automatic converters and drum magazines, which let a weapon carry many more bullets than an ordinary magazine. In another Instagram Story, Hamilton posted a photo that included a Glock with a mouth-zipped-shut emoji over the point where a converter would attach to the gun. Some Instagram Stories also showed Teshae pointing a weapon at houses apparently in Milwaukee, with suggestions that he is seeking retribution for Raymond J, Colon, who died in a shooting on March 15. In a third, Teshae appears to show himself spending $3,000 to buy an assortment of firearms.

At the time of writing, the related Instagram accounts are still online. Instagram acknowledged a request for comment but did not provide a statement in time for publication.

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"Based on the evidence as set forth in this affidavit, case agents are aware that the subjects and targets of this investigation have used different means of Instagram communication (Instagram messenger) and private Instagram messaging on the Target Accounts to obtain, transfer, and discuss the use and possession of firearms, including converting firearms from semi-automatic to fully automatic machineguns," Special Agent Connors wrote in the warrant application.

“We respond to valid legal requests but we can’t comment on specific cases,” an Instagram spokesperson said.

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