CRIME BLOTTER

‘Belltown Hellcat’ social media influencer barred from driving infamous car

Apr 10, 2024, 7:30 AM | Updated: 11:09 am

belltown hellcat social media...

SPD in Belltown responding to a crime scene. (Photo courtesy of SPD)

(Photo courtesy of SPD)

Update 7:30 a.m. April 10

The driver of a tiger-striped Dodge Charger Hellcat — a vehicle tormenting Belltown residents for months due to its excessive speeds and noise — has been barred from driving the infamous car for a year within Seattle, per the conditions of the social media influencer’s release from a Tuesday hearing for reckless driving. The influencer can still drive in general, just not in the Hellcat.

Original Story

A 20-year-old Instagram influencer has been charged with reckless driving in downtown Seattle after the City Attorney used the suspect’s own videos posted online in the case.

The person has been accused of driving 107 miles per hour through Belltown in a Dodge Hellcat, decaled with tiger stripes, using a modified exhaust and engine that made his car backfire. The sound of his car was similar to gunfire, according to The Seattle Times.

“It has gotten so bad for people who live in the area, even those living 30 stories high have been calling police to complain about all the loud noise he’s been causing,” Ursula Reutin, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, said. “His Instagram account with 600,000-plus followers features videos of him driving that souped-up car at night and early in the morning. You can’t do that.”

More on social media: Bill that could ban TikTok passes House, Wash. lawmakers weigh in

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office charged the suspect with two counts of reckless driving last week, using his Instagram profile as evidence. The speed limit in the area he was driving is 25 mph.

The influencer said he wasn’t aware of the charges and doesn’t plan to stop driving his car, according to The Seattle Times.

“And when he was pulled over by officers last week, he told one officer that he’s an Instagram influencer and the money that he makes filming those videos paid for that car,” Ursula added.

“I’m looking at his videos and I’m screenshotting the different times where he’s at 90 mph, 97 here, 98 there,” Gee Scott, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, added. “There are reports that say that he was going 107, that’s not just speeding. That is reckless. That’s dangerous. And this dude needed to be stopped for that. That’s not funny.”

In Washington, traffic fatalities were up 38% in 2022 compared to 2019, reaching a 30-year high for the state, according to The Washington State Standard. Driver deaths increased by 21%, deaths of pedestrians and motorcyclists rose by 18% and bicyclist deaths jumped by 12%.

In 2023, 788 people were killed on Washington roads.

More on dangerous driving: Nearly 70% of fatal crashes on US 101 in WA involved DUI, speeding

Seattle City Councilmember Bob Kettle claimed he has received more than 100 complaints over this person’s driving.

“This is what I hate about social media because he has 600,000 followers, and he even said it. Even if people are hating the car, any publicity is good publicity,” Ursula said. “This was another quote in The Seattle Times. He said ‘I feel like people are more bothered that a young black man has a nice car. There are way bigger issues than a black man with a nice car who makes noise occasionally.'”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no we ain’t doing that,” Gee responded. “I don’t care what your ethnicity is. You were driving recklessly and I’m glad that there is more of a focus being brought to the speeding problem because I felt like I’ve been talking to myself about it for the last few years.

“If I was to grab that young man, I would tell him, ‘Stop. You don’t have to do the speeding. Stop that. You’re going to win by the way. It is lucrative to be a social media influencer. It is very lucrative. And you can live downtown. Stop with the reckless stuff,'” Gee continued.

“But would he still attract people if he wasn’t doing this and flaunting it?” Ursula asked.

Dangerous trends have been embedded within social media since its existence. While some social media challenges, including the ALS ice bucket challenge in 2014 or the mannequin challenge in 2016, can be positive and safe, others can be harmful to those who participate. Dangerous viral social media trends have included the Tide pod challenge, where someone consumes a laundry detergent pod. According to a 2018 report from KUTV, nearly 50 people across the nation reported being poisoned by consuming liquid detergent pods, with half of the exposures being intentional.

In 2016, another dangerous trend emerged called the choking game — or blackout challenge — where asphyxiation is used to obtain a “high.” Another was the Benadryl Challenge, where people involved taking dangerous amounts of Benadryl to achieve a high and even experience hallucinations. Several teenagers had been hospitalized as a result of participating in the challenge, and one teenager from Oklahoma reportedly died.

Most recently, carjacking became a social media trend where “Kia Boyz” would target and steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2021.

More on Kia Boyz: ‘Kia Boyz’ allegedly execute crime spree in south King County

“Well think about it this way, how many young men drove or still drive like a maniac when you’re 16? 18? 20?” Andrew Lanier, the producer of The Gee and Ursula Show, offered. “Because nothing bad has ever happened to you and you feel invincible and you have a sweet car? Now imagine you’re a teen driving like that and someone was paying you to do it and you’re getting hundreds of thousands of likes every time you posted it.”

“What he needs to hear is the story about that 18-year-old who had his third crash and that third crash killed four people and critically injured two,” Ursula said.

More on the fatal accident: 3 children, 1 mother killed, multiple injuries in major vehicle accident in Renton

Is social media designed to reward people acting badly?

“Social media rewards outrageous behavior and the more outrageous, the bigger the bragging rights,” the American Academy of Pediatrics stated. “It’s a quick-moving, impulsive environment, and the fear of losing out is real for teens. That environment plays into a teen’s underdeveloped ability to think through their actions and possible consequences.”

It’s gone so far that the FDA had to release statements preventing the dangerous behavior.

“These trendy social media challenges can cause serious injuries and poisonings, and some can even be fatal,” the FDA stated in response to the Sleeping Chicken Challenge (where someone cooks chicken in NyQuil). “Being aware of these challenges and understanding why they lure teens is important for all parents.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.- noon on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

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‘Belltown Hellcat’ social media influencer barred from driving infamous car