Social media is useful for all kinds of things; from reconnecting old school friends and helping people to find low-cost items locally, to keeping family members in contact with one another regardless of distance. Spreading stories and sharing jokes, social media is as informative as it is entertaining. However, as one college football star has now found out, social media can also be used to relay details pertaining to crimes, and to unmask perpetrators long before the police have had a chance to question them. Breck Ruddick, a quarterback with the Missouri State Bears, was recently named in a damning Facebook post regarding the mistreatment of a friend's dog. Within hours, he had been suspended by Bears head coach Dave Steckel, and had become the subject of an investigation by Missouri State's Office of Student Conduct – though the local police department denies any involvement in the case.
How did events unfold? On Friday September 23, an accusatory post naming Ruddick as the aggressor during an attack on a friend's dog was published on Facebook. According to the allegations contained within that Facebook post, Ruddick, a sophomore from Marion, Arkansas, beat the friend's Australian Shepherd so badly that the dog's jaw was broken and several teeth were cracked or dislodged, requiring surgery. Named Luca, the terrified dog was let loose by Ruddick following the altercation, and couldn't be found until the following day. Several distressing pictures documenting the dog's injuries accompanied the post, which described Luca's ordeal and treatment, in detail.
As well as inspiring a petition on Change.org, which has amassed some 236,000 signatures calling for the quarterback's permanent expulsion, Ruddick's actions sparked outrage and debate on campus. There were even reports of the star receiving death threats, while his social media accounts were deactivated. Ruddick was issued with two tickets by Springfield Animal Control: one for cruelty to animals, and one for letting a dog run at large following his release of Luca after the attack.
Coach Steckel recently announced that Ruddick would stay suspended for the rest of the year, though he has been allowed to remain on the team. His return to college football will rely upon him meeting a set of criteria set by the coach, which will include paying Luca's veterinary bills and making a public apology to the team and university, regarding his conduct. Ruddick remains on scholarship at the school and, while he admits pushing the dog away from him, he has vehemently denied causing such severe injuries to Luca's jaw.