The police department of Costa Mesa, in California’s affluent Orange County, have asked the public for any information on the whereabouts of a wanted suspect named Johnny Young.
Authorities identified Young as a self-described incel, someone bitter over a perceived lack of sexual opportunities and overtly hostile to women because of it. As of May 5th, he’s officially sought in connection to a series of hate crimes — public harassment and assaults that he typically recorded and posted on social media under aliases including “Jay Rockefeller.”
Young no doubt attracted the attention of cops with a recent video in which he is seen pepper-spraying women who try to fend off his misogynistic verbal attack. Unfortunately, while this may represent a new escalation in his tactics, Young has been terrorizing the area for a while. In July 2021, he achieved minor notoriety for footage that depicted his harassment of a woman at the gym and the fracas that followed when his membership at the business was revoked as a result. The content made a splash on Reddit and got a writeup in Newsweek.
Before that, Young was known for causing scenes at fast-food restaurants by screaming at employees, and he successfully licensed a Burger King meltdown from 2020 to the MTV show Ridiculousness for $300, according to the Orange County Register. Although his own YouTube channel was either banned or disabled as of several months ago, that video — along with many more — have been reshared by others. Two weeks ago, in the comment section, a fan of Young’s asked him to “mace more wyminz,” a clear reference to his pepper spray assaults.
What’s worrying from a procedural standpoint is that the Costa Mesa police had known Young was a danger since November of last year, when victims of a pepper spray assault filed a report describing him. Not until late April did the cops link it to similar incidents. They were “made aware” of these subsequent attacks because Young had shared the evidence online.
But as early as December 2021, director and TikTok influencer R. Michael McWhorter had established that the internet persona “Jay Rockefeller” was Johnny Young, a young man seemingly in violation of his probation stemming from a 2019 conviction for threatening to shoot up a Las Vegas night club with another young man, Braxton Ryback, after the pair declared themselves white supremacists. In that incident, too, Young filmed security guards while antagonizing them and was carrying pepper spray. He and Ryback were each sentenced to a month in jail. While Young was forbidden to enter or go near “any hotel-casino properties on the Strip or in downtown Las Vegas” for three years, McWhorter pointed out he had continued to harass women in those casinos. It was around then that Young deleted his TikTok page.
The proliferation and popularity of Young’s content despite his various channels going dark reveals the importance of fandom — and documented real-life confrontations — in the incel community. Elliot Rodger, a sort of radicalizing patron saint for the movement, killed six in a 2014 rampage but left behind a manifesto and more than a dozen YouTube videos explaining his grievances and alienation. A month ago, 20-year-old Malik Sanchez successfully avoided prison time for livestreaming on the platform as he threatened to blow up a Manhattan restaurant to scare women dining there, an act motivated by incel ideology. Meanwhile, Young gave an interview to a right-wing creator mentioning how he’d gained viewers and impressions when the website WorldStarHipHop started aggregating his harassment videos, calling them “rage fuel.” Meaning that even before he’d graduated from vulgar, intimidating approaches to physical harm, Young thought he might be inspiring disaffected men to lash out on their own.
Young’s criminal behavior is inseparable from his need to record it — his need for an audience. Like so many wannabe viral characters, he developed a schtick over time, and when he started getting attention for stalking, badgering and frightening women, he took it up another notch to reap the engagement. He gained meager status by offering what, to some incels, looks like “proof” of feminine snobbery or egotism, speaking to women in a disgusting, invasive way that prompts them to reject him, even flee for their lives. If and when he’s arrested in the coming days, it will be after nearly two years of incriminating himself in a campaign of terror by uploading it to the internet for anyone to see.
And every day, more people are watching.