Spotify, YouTube, and others remove Highland Park suspect's songs and videos after history of disturbing content

·4 min read
Highland Park shooting scene
FBI agents work the scene of a shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 5, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois.Jim Vondruska/Getty Images
  • A shooter in Highland Park, Illinois, shot and killed six people and injured dozens at a parade Monday.

  • The suspect was an online rapper who left a trail of disturbing content on sites like YouTube.

  • Platforms including YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music have removed his content following the shooting.

The man who police suspect shot and killed six people and injured 38 others during a July 4 parade in a suburb of Chicago on Monday left a trail of disturbing videos and posts across social media prior to the mass killing. Tech platforms including Spotify and YouTube have begun to scrub his profiles and content from the internet, as more information about his background emerges.

The 21-year-old suspect, who police apprehended on Monday evening, posted online as "Awake The Rapper" and created music videos of himself that included depictions of mass killing, NBC News reported.

In one recent YouTube video, the suspect draped himself in the American flag after depicting a school shooting, according to the report. Another video showed a computer generated image of a person shooting a rifle while wearing tactical gear and another person on their knees raising their hands, begging for mercy, according to a report from The Washington Post.

A voice over track on one video posted on YouTube said: "I need to leave now, I need to just do it. It is my destiny. Everything has led up to this; nothing can stop me, not even myself," according to the Post report. An animated video posted by the suspect featured an armed shooter entering a school and shooting before engaging with police, the Daily Beast reported.

The YouTube channel was removed by the company late Monday just hours after police released the identity of the suspect. A spokesperson for YouTube did not immediately return Insider's request for comment sent Tuesday.

Songs posted by the suspect on Spotify were also removed on Monday. The suspect's music was labeled in the "LoFi rap" genre on Spotify, and he had more than 16,000 monthly listeners before his account was removed on Monday, the Daily Mail reported. He had released three albums, one in 2017, one in 2018, and the most recent in 2021.

A spokesperson for the company told Insider on Tuesday it removed the content "in partnership" with the music distributor. The suspect's profile on Apple Music also appeared to have been deleted following the shooting. Apple did not immediately return Insider's request for comment on Tuesday.

The suspect also had a Discord channel where fans and others would post nihilistic political memes, NBC News reported. The most recent post was made in March and referenced Budd Dwyer, the former Pennsylvania state treasurer who shot and killed himself on live television in 1987 ahead of a 55-year prison sentence for bribery, according to the report.

Others on the channel shared photos that the suspect had allegedly posted, including at least one that referenced suicide. The forum was briefly invaded by 4chan trolls before it was shut down Monday evening, according to NBC News. Discord did not return Insider's request for comment on Tuesday.

The suspect also appeared to at one point support former President Donald Trump, posting a YouTube video from outside the ex-president's motorcade in January 2021 and posting a photo wearing a Trump flag in June last year on Twitter, according to NBC News. He also liked one video of President Biden on Twitter, the Daily Beast reported. One friend of the suspect told The Washington Post that the suspect was largely "apolitical."

The attack took place during an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois. The suspect appeared to have planned the shooting for weeks, according to local law enforcement, firing dozens of rounds at the crowd from a nearby rooftop. A doctor who was near the scene at the time of the shooting later told NBC Chicago that he witnessed victims with "horrific injuries," and attempted to treat a child wounded from the gunfire.

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