Three Florida men charged after shark-dragging video goes viral

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A shark is dragged behind a boat at high speed in a video that surfaced on social media.via NBC2

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

Three Florida men have been charged in connection with a July video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speeds, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission announced on Tuesday.

Michael Wenzel, 21, Robert Lee Benac, III, 28, and Spencer Heintz, 23, each face two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty — a third-degree felony.

Wenzel and Benac also face a misdemeanor count of illegal method of take for the shark.

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Benac declined to comment when reached by phone. Wenzel did not immediately respond to voicemail messages requesting comment. NBC News was unable to reach Heintz.

The video, which surfaced earlier this year, allegedly shows the three men watching as a sharkis battered by the speeding boat's wake as it is dragged behind it. It is unclear who filmed the video.

Related: Great White Hype: What Are the Odds of Being Killed by a Shark?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it examined the video and other "disturbing images on social media involving shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources" when investigating the case.

Three men appear in a video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed.NBC2

“As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,” said Commission Chairman Bo Rivard, adding that the Commission hopes the charges will send a clear message that mistreating wildlife "will not be tolerated."

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted on Tuesday, saying he was "proud of the hard work" the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took to find those responsible for the video.

"I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year, and I am proud of the hard work of @MyFWC law enforcement during this investigation," Scott tweeted.