The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Joker impersonator who said he was ‘planning on killing a bunch of people’ was just joking, fans say

Jeremy Garnier, 51, was arrested on a first-degree felony charge of making terroristic threats, and a judge ordered that he be held without bond. (Facebook/City of University City, Mo.)

Dressed in a long purple coat and smeared makeup like Heath Ledger’s Joker character in “The Dark Knight,” the man stalks around a Missouri music venue. While live-streaming himself on Facebook, he holds up a giant magnifying glass and emits a nervous giggle. Off-screen, someone asks what he wants to drink. The Joker requests Sprite.

“I can’t be inebriated when I’m planning on killing a bunch of people,” he says.

Moments later, the police show up, and 51-year-old Jeremy Garnier is arrested on a first-degree felony charge of making a terrorist threat.

But the Monday night incident was a misunderstanding, according to Garnier’s friends and fans, who are trying to raise money for his legal defense. Supporters of the self-proclaimed performance artist, who has more than 12,000 followers on Facebook, say he was only playing a role and didn’t intend on harming anyone. Throughout the live-streamed video, which also shows him getting kicked out of a mall, Garnier repeatedly says that he’s trying to raise awareness about the opioid crisis.

“When you share this video, let them know that the Joker ain’t joking around when it comes to serious addiction,” he tells viewers shortly before his arrest. “You need to leave that stuff alone and inspire the children not to do it.”

Smirking and flaring his eyebrows, he adds, “And … kill a few people while you’re at it.”

Why ‘Joker’ became one of the most divisive movies of the year

When the latest version of “Joker” directed by Todd Phillips’s hit theaters last fall, its gritty portrayals of violence inspired a cultural panic. Critics worried that the film, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, glamorized killers and could potentially inspire mass shootings. Its defenders insisted it simply mirrored the alienation prevalent in today’s society. The Aurora, Colo., theater where 12 people were killed during a 2012 screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” ultimately chose not to screen the film, and victims’ relatives expressed concerns to Warner Bros.

The rash of violence some had predicted never came to pass, and “Joker” walked away with 11 Oscar nominations, more than any other film this year. But dressing up as the Batman villain and talking about mass murder in a crowded public space is still guaranteed to scare people, as Garnier found out Monday night.

‘Outrage is a commodity’: Director Todd Phillips bashes ‘far left’ criticism of ‘Joker’

According to officials in University City, Mo., which neighbors St. Louis, police received a call at approximately 8:15 p.m. Monday about “a disturbance involving a male subject dressed in a costume” who had been making threats on Facebook Live. Garnier was live-streaming from Blueberry Hill, a legendary restaurant and music club in the bustling Delmar Loop entertainment district. Police were warned he could be an active shooter, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But the caller was mistaken, Garnier’s supporters say. The 51-year-old, who goes by “Uncle Dubb,” was just trying to entertain his Facebook followers.

“While this was undoubtedly not Jeremy’s best decision considering the consequences … he was not threatening anyone,” the GoFundMe account set up on his behalf says. “As he says … he was chasing ‘clout’ … trying to increase his Facebook viewerss and bring attention to the opiate crisis plaguing this country.”

The nearly hour-long video posted to Garnier’s Facebook page begins in what appears to be his bedroom. Dressed in an ill-fitting suit, green vest and tie, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Heath Ledger’s Joker, and is “generally acting very Joker-y,” as the Riverfront Times put it.

“Yes, I’m doing this for attention,” he says in his unsettling whisper. “But the attention I seek is to take over the world with a new concept: That opiates aren’t cool.”

Channeling Ledger’s character in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Garnier tells his viewers he’s “going to start killing people” until 1,000 people have tuned into the live stream.

“Once it reaches 1,000, I’m going to go out in public and I’m going to kill more,” he says. “We’re not going to go to any movie theaters, and we’re going to go totally unarmed because we don’t want to alert the authorities into thinking that we might be on actual rampage.”

Later, Garnier drives to the Saint Louis Galleria while smoking a pipe and telling his viewers that “the bombs” are in place. He roams around the mall, greeting shoppers and store clerks and inviting them to check out his Facebook stream. At one point, he challenges two teens to a rap battle outside Macy’s. Before long, though, police officers show up. They tell Garnier that someone has reported him for making threats.

Garnier tells the police he’s doing “performance art” and that 3,000 people are watching him on Facebook Live. They inform him he’s not allowed to have his face covered inside the mall. Garnier agrees to leave.

His next stop is Blueberry Hill, where he manages to talk his way into the bar without an identification. “You wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s me anyway,” he reasons. While showing his viewers the memorabilia that’s displayed throughout the restaurant, he spots flashing police lights outside, and predicts the officers are there for him.

“I don’t have no weapons on me,” he later tells someone who can’t be seen in the frame. “I’m not going to do nothing. You’ve got me messed up. Except all these bombs.”

A few minutes later, the feed goes blurry as police officers handcuff Garnier and take him into custody. According to KTVI, a judge ordered he be held without bond.

By early Thursday morning, Garnier’s live stream had been viewed more than 55,000 times, with countless commenters chiming in with some variation of “#FreeDubb.”

“This is an extremely serious felony charge,” Glenda Volk, who set up the GoFundMe, wrote. “I’m asking for your help so I can retain an attorney to get Jeremy a psych evaluation to show he truly is not a threat to society and to hopefully get a bond and get these charges dropped or at least reduced.”

Loading...