“Meatball,” a 21-year-old social media influencer, is facing felony charges after livestreaming smash-and-grab robberies in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The thefts occurred in the wake of a judge’s dismissal of charges against a police officer who shot and killed a man during a traffic stop.
According to police, Tuesday night’s vandalism and robberies were partly orchestrated via social media. Dayjia Blackwell, known as Meatball, livestreamed the chaos to her nearly 200,000 Instagram followers. At one point, she turned the camera around and taunted police to come and get her. She also captured herself leaving a liquor store toting a bottle of Hennessy.
Blackwell, arrested Tuesday, is facing charges including burglary, conspiracy, criminal mischief, receipt of stolen property and disorderly conduct.
She posted bail this week, is due back in court next month and is active on social media again, where she shared her teary-eyed mug shot with her followers. She also shared a message to her Instagram stories, writing that she’s scared and doesn’t know what’s going on. “I’m actually overwhelmed,” she continued. “I’m young idk [I don’t know] what’s happening.”
The influencer was selling “Free Meatball” merch, including $45 hoodies and tees, through her Instagram page on Thursday, but the shop link has since been removed from her profile. Blackwell did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
On Tuesday, Blackwell wrote on Instagram: “What we doing tonight behind this injustice tap in?” The influencer was referencing Municipal Judge Wendy Pew’s ruling earlier that day to dismiss all charges against former Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial. The officer was arrested last month after he shot and killed Eddie Irizarry, 27, through a rolled-up driver’s side window. Irizarry had been pulled over for erratic driving.
Police body camera footage captured Irizarry holding a knife near his right leg as police approached his vehicle in a residential area. The ruling came after a courtroom filled with police and relatives of Irizarry watched about 20 minutes of the body-cam footage. The judge ultimately agreed with the defense attorneys, who argued that Dial acted in self-defense when he fired his weapon at close range on the afternoon of Aug. 14.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a downtown demonstration outside of City Hall fizzled out around 7:30 p.m. At that point, Blackwell was in Center City among a large group, which continued to grow as the night devolved from peaceful protests into vandalism and theft.
Groups of teenagers and young adults swarmed into stores, stuffing plastic bags with merchandise and fleeing. An Apple Store was hit around 8 p.m., and police chased people as they fled, recovering dropped iPhones and a “pile of iPads” at one spot, a police statement said. More than 100 people stole goods from a Lululemon store, NBC10 Philadelphia reported, citing a police officer.
Vandals also hit a Foot Locker and a liquor store. As the night grew later, more people arrived on foot or in cars, stealing from stores at a mall in northeast Philadelphia, in the Aramingo Avenue shopping district and elsewhere. Eighteen state-run liquor stores were broken into Tuesday night, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which temporarily closed retail locations in the city in the aftermath.
Per the Philadelphia Inquirer, Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford described the robbers and vandals as “opportunists” who piggybacked on the grief regarding the Irizarry case.
“We were able to link some things on social media,” Stanford said at a news conference Tuesday night. “We had a group that was making their way through the city. Quite naturally, you have followers who are going to see this and start to come out, and think they have an opportunity to get something.”
More than 50 arrests have been made as of Thursday, and all but three of those arrested are adults, according to Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.