In 2018, a mother and her daughter were killed after being hit by Cameron Herrin’s car. Herrin received a 24-year prison sentence in April after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide. Now, a cult following on TikTok is rallying behind him.
Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt, 24, and her 20-month-old daughter Lillia were crossing Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, Florida, when they were hit and killed by Herrin’s car. Herrin was competing in a street race at the time, and he hit 100 mph at one point. Since his sentencing, a slew of fan accounts have sprung up, pleading for Herrin to be given another chance. Some argue that he is “too cute” to be imprisoned for so long. Herrin’s TikTok account has 2 million followers, but no content is available for viewing.
TikTok videos about Herrin have received 2.2 billion views, while videos with the hashtag #justiceforcameron have received 26.1 million views. The TikToks mostly depict Herrin in court, with video and stills of him crying. They capture his expression when he was given his sentence, as well as the brief moment he removed his mask to drink some water. Accounts dedicated to Herrin’s cause have also appeared on Twitter and Instagram, and a Change.org petition to reduce his sentence has received over 28,000 signatures.
Hannah Kosh, a TikToker with 594,000 followers, posted a video about the movement on August 4 that has been viewed 2.2 million times. She explained that some people think Herrin’s sentence is too harsh, and she shared some of the comments they’ve made on TikTok.
One simply reads “not a killer,” while another expressed hope that he is forgiven because he “appear[s] innocent.”
The comment reads, “Poor boy.” “He’s not doing it on purpose.” Others have remarked on Herrin’s appearance, saying things like “omg his eyes” and “you’re too cute.”
Experts were skeptical that some of the so-called fan accounts would use hot ticket topics to gain a following in order to disseminate false or misleading information. They believed this because many of the social media users who wanted “justice” for Herrin could be traced back to the Middle East, and his name was not always spelled correctly.
Some social media accounts on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram have been rumored to be bots set up to capitalize on a trending topic. According to the local newspaper, some of these accounts appear to be based in the Middle East and use a mix of Arabic and English, and some online misinformation experts saw parallels with fake accounts paid to influence campaigns.
Others, on the other hand, appear to be based on genuine opinion. Herrin’s mother told reporters that some people seem to have a “unhealthy obsession” with her son, sending her letters and calling her in the middle of the night. While the support was initially comforting, she described it as “scary” when her family members were stalked and Herrin’s fiancée’s social media accounts were hacked.
This isn’t the first time TikTok has become obsessed with a young person facing incarceration. Teenagers created fan Instagram pages for Peter Manfredonia, a 23-year-old University of Connecticut student suspected of double murder, in May 2020.
The morbid “stan” accounts, according to reporter Kat Tenbarge, appeared to be an ironic inside joke among fans of Nicki Minaj and the controversial social media star Peaches.
Nonetheless, despite the social outcry across various platforms, it’s probable Herrin will remain in prison for the duration of his sentence.