Friday morning's deadly shooting at the Empire State Building led to at least one through-the-looking-glass moment that illuminated both the journalistic power and bizarre connections only social media can provide. It all started when Instagram user @mr_mookie posted a violent photo, which shows a bleeding victim sprawled on the sidewalk outside the Empire State Building.
(Editor's note: Due to the photo's graphic nature, Mashable has decided not to post the image high up in this story, but it's embedded at the bottom.)
The accompanying caption "They shoot, aw made you look! No really tho. Dude got popped!" quickly engendered outrage from commenters on Instagram and Twitter. It also didn't take long for mainstream news outlets to bombard @mr_mookie with requests to use the image in their coverage.
@mr_mookie, whose actual name is Muhammad Malik, told Mashable Friday afternoon how he got the photo that quickly went viral on the social web. He said he had just gotten off the train and was walking to work when he "saw everything unfolding right in front of me." He said he heard "probably the last few shots," then saw paramedics tending to the wounded when he snapped the photo. Malik works as a freelance photographer as a side gig to his office job and says he always keeps a camera with him.
The victim pictured (at the bottom of this post) was one of nine people injured, according to reports. The assailant killed one man, before being killed after pulling his gun on police.
So was Malik surprised by the violent scene he happened upon?
The 40-year-old lifelong New York City resident said he's seen shootings and dead bodies "too many times to count" and sounded unfazed by the morning's events. "I've driven by dead bodies, seen my friends killed in the street, family members," He said. "It's New York City. I'm not sure where you're calling from, but this is every day."
Malik also said his Instagram caption had prompted death threats via Twitter, and that the backlash was one of the only things about the morning that did take him off guard. The caption is based on a lyric from the Nas song "Made You Look" and "always comes to mind anytime shots are fired around me."
Posts to Malik's Facebook account indicate that he made some serious profit from of the image. "Making major deals! #chaching," says one. Another reads, "Gotta get that bread (Stevie J Voice)." But he says he did not, in fact, make any money from the photo.
"People offered me money and it just got so hectic I never followed up," he told Mashable. "It just got to be too much and I forgot about it. It wasn't about the money to me."
But Friday morning's unexpected brush with viral Internet fame and notoriety as a result from the photo isn't something Malik expects he'll have to deal with for long.
"By tomorrow this will all be forgotten," he said. "It will be on to the next story."
Do you think the criticism Malik took on social media was fair or unwarranted? Do you think mainstream media is at fault for their zealousness to get ahold of the violent photo? Share your take in the comments.
Thumbnail image via hellojho