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Celebrity, bling and danger: PnB Rock’s killing heightens worries about social media vulnerability

One of the first things attorney Dawn Florio told PnB Rock when she began representing the rapper was to be careful about what he posted on social media and when.

Avoid sharing a specific location until you’ve left, and never post your current location, Florio recalls telling him.

“You cannot tell people where you’re going to be,” she said.

On Monday, Rock was having lunch at Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in South Los Angeles.

He was killed during a botched robbery after being targeted for his jewelry, police said. A suspect brandished a firearm inside the restaurant and demanded items from Rock, who was shot after a brief struggle with the assailant.

Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating whether the killing stemmed from an Instagram post by the rapper’s girlfriend that geotagged Roscoe’s, at Main Street and Manchester Avenue. It was shared minutes before the shooting.

Police said they are searching for the gunman and attempting to determine a motive, so it may take time to know what role the post played in the slaying of the 30-year-old rapper, whose real name was Rakim Allen. But the shooting has reignited discussion of the dangers of the real-time use of social media by celebrities who post about their locations and luxury possessions.

This has been an issue for more than a decade, dating back to a group of young L.A. thieves known as the Bling Ring, who targeted the homes of celebrities after seeing their jewelry and other valuables in social media posts.

More recently, rapper Pop Smoke was gunned down in 2020 at a Hollywood Hills rental during a botched robbery. The young Brooklyn rapper, whose real name was Bashar Jackson, had posted a photo of a black gift bag from luxury clothing brand Amiri that exposed the address of the rental where he was staying. Police said a 15-year-old saw the post and hatched a plan with three others to rob the rapper of his gold chain and diamond-studded watch, which led to the killing.

Police say such crimes linked to social media are rare. But Moore said he’s concerned about the proliferation of guns on the streets being used by robbers targeting victims for high-end jewelry.

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