Prentis Robinson rarely went a day without using Facebook Live – his go-to way of broadcasting his music and his musings.
He was on Facebook Live Monday, recording himself with a selfie stick, wearing the straw cowboy hat he often wore in videos. He talked about how his phone was stolen as he walked around his town of Wingate, North Carolina, 30 miles southeast of Charlotte. He stopped by the Wingate Police Department to check in with Chief Donnie Gay.
“Bring his phone back so he can get on with his way today,” Gay told Robinson’s camera, according to video, part of which was posted by The Charlotte Observer. Robinson left and kept walking.
Moments later, the camera captured and broadcast Robinson’s death.
It happened about five and a half minutes into the video, when Robinson was approached by someone off-camera. Robinson told the man, who was holding a long black object, that he was on Facebook Live.
Then came gunshots. The camera fell, landing face up so that the rest of the Facebook Live video showed the sky and treetops as the suspect ran away. A car could be seen from the edge of the screen arriving to the scene, as the driver or a passenger appeared to have spotted Robinson. He was found laying down with several gunshot wounds, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gay told Fox 46 in Charlotte that Robinson had been identifying suspected drug dealers during some Facebook Live streams. Gay said he had “always suspected the man would’ve been beat up over it but never shot,” Fox 46 reporter David Sentendrey wrote in a tweet.
According to Sentendrey, Robinson’s family members said he would sometimes “try to help police find drug dealers, even though he had his own demons.”
“Sometimes they felt like police were annoyed with him,” Sentendrey added.
A person reached at the Wingate Police Department Monday night told The Washington Post that no one was immediately available to comment. As of Monday evening, no arrests had been made.
The shooting occurred near Wingate University, sending the college and nearby Wingate Elementary School into temporary lockdowns, even though the shooting did not occur on either campus. The university had initially tweeted that shots were fired near a dorm, but the rumors of an active shooter on campus were later quashed by the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Gay told WBTV he was shocked that the shooting happened so close to the police department. Police are still looking for a suspect.
Facebook has removed the video from Robinson’s profile, and could not be immediately reached for comment. The company announced last year it was hiring 3,000 employees to help screen violent live videos before they spread across the network.