Pasco sheriff sternly responds to call to 'Shoot at Hurricane Irma'

Ryon Edwards created a Facebook event called "Shoot at Hurricane Irma."
Ryon Edwards created a Facebook event called "Shoot at Hurricane Irma."
Published Sept. 10, 2017

The event was called "Shoot at Hurricane Irma," and everyone was invited.

On Tuesday, Ryon Edwards of DeLand, created a Facebook event page about the imaginary gathering. In it, he called the hurricane "goofy" and added, in all caps, "LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST."

At that time, the Houston metropolitan area was just beginning to recover after Hurricane Harvey. Irma was looming, just hours away from making its first landfall on the island of Barbuda.

Edwards' show of comic bravado was a hit. His friends started signing on and making jokes.

Then a few strangers joined.

And then a few more.

On Sunday, more than 55,000 people had visited the page and expressed interest in attending.

Edwards, 22, who said he owns "a couple of rifles and a handgun," is a welder and a bassist for a metal band called Gucci Flute. "I guess that a lot of people just connected to the joke, and the more it got shared, the more attention it seemed to get," he said on Sunday.

On Facebook, some people posted pictures of themselves with rifles and promised to charge directly into the eye of the storm.

Someone left a photo of a cat with a pistol.

Related Facebook events popped up with names like "Everybody Points Their Fans At The Hurricane To Blow It Away" and "Why Don't We Just PUSH Florida Somewhere Else!!"

Edwards said that the tens of thousands of "attendees" of his event seemed to be in on the joke. After all, he said, "there is no way I'm going to be out in a windstorm wielding a firearm."

Still, a few commenters criticized Edwards, appearing to take his post literally.

Some expressed alarm that he might inspire someone, somewhere, to fire ammunition into hurricane-force winds. The sheriff's office in Pasco County tweeted a stern warning against shooting weapons at Irma: "You won't make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects."

And Edwards' name suddenly started appearing in news media outlets including the BBC, The Telegraph and Newsweek.

"Shoot at Hurricane Irma" was to start at 10 a.m. on Sunday. But at that moment, Edwards was sheltering at home, and there was no hurricane to shoot at.

"The weather is actually pretty calm now, but by tonight it'll be insane," he said. "I have boarded up all the windows, got a generator, sandbagged, got lots of food and water and other essentials for when power is lost."

Hurricane Irma devastated islands in the Caribbean, battered the Florida Keys and caused flooding in southern Florida. As the wind began to gain strength in DeLand, Edwards left one more post on his Facebook event page.

"Make sure to help each other out during and after the storm in whatever way you can," he wrote. "While the news will make countless stories about us 'encouraging' people to shoot the hurricane, there will be far less coverage on how Floridians always have each others' backs in times of need."