Kyle Leonard, a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate, was much like any other college student.
He played sports, joined the FSU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha and led an active life on and off campus. Like so many others, he posted photos on his social media accounts from football games and social functions with friends. Though these accounts are widely viewable, Leonard did not leave his life completely open to the public.
Yet something about Leonard or his Facebook profile made him stand out in a pool of more than 1.3 billion users. An impersonator created another Facebook profile under his name, using the Pi Kappa Alpha banner as the profile photo, and started a chain of events that would lead to more questions than answers.
Since he was first alerted to the fake profile, Leonard has been contacted by peers claiming the impersonator could be linked to another case in Boynton Beach. The Boynton Beach Police Department is currently working with the FBI to investigate a man responsible for posting disturbing YouTube videos. The person of interest, according to those reaching out to Leonard, went to high school with current FSU and University of Florida students who were also added as “friends” on the fake profile.
Toward the end of Leonard’s senior year at FSU, around March 2013, he began receiving concerned text messages asking if he had created a second profile and heard rumors of a spoof page. He was blocked from viewing it, however, so Leonard was unable to find the page for himself.
Leonard explained he believed the fake profile was just a prank and was not concerned in the beginning – he heard about it sporadically, and no one mentioned harassing posts.
“I wish I took the situation more seriously from the beginning because when I started seeing some of the stuff he was saying to these girls and the harassment level,” Leonard paused. “In today’s world, that’s how you lose your job, lose your reputation or however you want to look at it. I definitely feel like a victim.”
For months, Leonard heard nothing more of the spoof page, but then, on July 6, 2014, a friend sent him a screenshot that changed everything for him.
“This was the first time I’d seen anything aggressive like this,” he said. “After this incident, more and more people messaged me telling me they knew I wouldn’t post the things this Facebook was saying and told me to report it.”
The impersonator, according to what Leonard saw in messages sent to him, was posting more aggressive, harassing material.
Many of those the impersonator had added as friends under Leonard’s name were members of sororities from Florida campuses, including FSU and the University of Florida. On some of these women’s Facebook photos, the individual made comments on their physical appearance.
These comments in particular drew attention to the impersonator. They were often detailed exclamations of approval focusing strictly on how the women looked. In others, though, the impersonator berated the women with negative reviews of their physical features or the clothes they wore. For example, the impersonator has expressed an extreme dislike of high-waisted shorts – he has even gone so far as to blame them for why Americans may be viewed negatively by other nations.
A rumor also circulated via private, sorority Facebook groups that the impersonator may have a “kill list,” indicated by a numbering system sometimes posted on photos of groups of these girls. According to both FSU and UF police department officials, however, there is no evidence to support this rumor.
Unfortunately, Leonard tried to report the fake profile but was unable to provide a link to a page he could not see.
On Aug. 17, he said the situation was “getting out of control,” and he decided to post a statement on his own profile apologizing to anyone offended by the fake page’s content and imploring friends of the account to help him terminate it.
“At this point, I saw that whoever was posting these statuses was crazy or had it out for me and, most importantly, something had to be done,” Leonard said.
He believed the spoof page could begin to affect his job prospects, his reputation and his relationships, work or otherwise.
Leonard had secured a job for after graduation – he now works in orthopedic sales in his hometown of Atlanta – but he grew more nervous about how the impersonator may affect his future the more he read the posts. He has since considered leaving the Facebook community but has not yet done so.
“I guess it just puts into perspective the world we live in today with social media,” he said. “It’s obviously very common that people use it, but it’s kind of dangerous, too, when your life is put out into public view like that.”
Leonard not only alerted Facebook users to the fake profile but also reported the situation to the FSUPD on Sept. 2.
FSUPD Deputy Chief Maj. James Russell said detectives are now looking into whether Leonard’s situation is a case of cyber-stalking, harassment or no crime at all.
Russell said he was also contacted by students expressing a concern that the Facebook impersonator may be the Boynton Beach resident. Both FSUPD and UFPD are cooperating with Boynton Beach officials to determine whether the individual is connected to the Facebook impersonator.
Russell is confident no student on either campus is in danger.
“As far as an imminent threat or any kind of concerns about our students, we’re comfortable that that is not the case,” he said.
Leonard will be updated on the case as more details become available.
“It’s obviously not making his life very easy either,” Russell said of Leonard. “He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Facebook removed the fake Kyle Leonard profile on Sept. 5 after being contacted by WUFT News.
Andrew Souvall, a Facebook spokesperson, provided WUFT News with Facebook’s stance on the situation: “At Facebook we have no tolerance for hate speech and content that is threatening, or incites violence, and we will not tolerate material deemed to be directly harmful to anyone.”
Facebook users are the first line of defense, Souvall wrote, and “report” links are available throughout the site to alert Facebook to any abuse.
“If this happens again, and your viewers become aware of it,” Souvall wrote, “they should report the page to Facebook through the report links on Facebook, and then the page will be reviewed to see if it complies with our community standards. If it doesn’t comply, the new page will be removed as well.”
Leonard said he’s glad the fake profile was removed, but he is still left with questions and feels he cannot move on until they are answered.
“Why me?” he said. “Why was I chosen? I’m just about as curious as anybody about what’s really going on.”