Instagram videos land gun-toting teens behind bars, deputies say

Suspects face felony charges

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Instagram videos showing a stolen vehicle and multiple guns led to the arrest of two teens who were planning to commit a kidnapping, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said they were reviewing videos posted online by Vincent Shalkowitz, an Orange City man known to be associated with gang activity, when they saw a video of Shalkowitz driving a stolen SUV while brandishing a gun. Jeremy Jones, 19, was in the passenger's seat flashing a stolen firearm, according to a news release.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the detectives essentially stumbled upon the videos but with great police work, they were able to put the suspects behind bars.

Shalkowitz, 18, was arrested May 30 on a charge of possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent. A search of his cellphone revealed more videos of the two teens with guns and text messages in which they discussed plans to tie up a man and his girlfriend to rob them, as well as a stolen vehicle and a burglary spree, according to authorities.

Based on those conversations, additional charges of conspiracy to commit a home invasion robbery with a firearm and conspiracy to commit kidnapping were filed against both suspects.

Shalkowitz, who has been arrested 11 times on 21 felony charges since he was 11 years old, also faces a grand theft auto charge in connection with the stolen Nissan Xterra seen in his Instagram video, officials said.

Jones is being held without bail. He's been arrested 11 times on 32 felony charges since he was 13 years old. Shalkowitz was booked Thursday on new charges and is being held at the Volusia County Jail on a $35,000 bail.

Chitwood said these arrests illustrate the problems with the juvenile justice system and judges who decline to enact tougher penalties for repeat offenders. 

“We keep arresting the same people over and over again because (judges) keep letting them out,” Chitwood said.

He said a Volusia County judge allowed Jones to be released from an electronic monitoring program ahead of his 18th birthday after Jones wrote a letter promising to stay out of trouble then days later, he failed a drug test.

Shalkowitz has also been required to wear an ankle monitor but in one instance, he cut the device off and posted a picture of him holding it up, daring the sheriff to "get me if you can," according to Chitwood.

It can often be difficult to rehabilitate young offenders, Chitwood said, which is why the department focuses on community outreach with elementary-aged children in order to sway them from ever getting involved with crime in the first place.

“Your heart likes to be that we can help change people but clearly here’s two guys who ain’t changing," Chitwood said.

About the Author: