A man who donated more than $200,000 to police before allegedly putting a police chief on a so-called “hit list” and shooting up a Florida condominium had boxes full of hoodies depicting the Columbine High School shooters—which his lawyer says he planned to sell to benefit police.
Ryan Flanzer, 27, was “fixated” on police, his lawyer Stephen Romine told The Daily Beast. Over several years of social media posts, Flanzer implied he worked with a Florida department. But that obsession—mixed with what Romine described as untreated mental illness and a drug-fueled culture on the fringes of an MTV show—left the wannabe officer on the wrong side of the law. In May 2018, Flanzer was accused of impersonating an officer while firing into a condo building, a charge that was dropped in a no-jail plea agreement this month.
Flanzer was no cop, but he certainly played one on social media.
On LinkedIn and Facebook, he listed himself as a “Crime Prevention consultant,” for the Longboat Key Police Department since 2017.
“i protect and serve me finance and interest #LongBoatKeyPolice , volunteer officer,” he wrote in an Instagram post less than two months before his arrest. The caption accompanied a photo of a Sig Sauer handgun and a concealed carry permit in a case that looked like a police badge.
“the only reason i believe in only hand guns for mentally evaluated persons is god for bid .. this word is crazy. protect others. especially here in crazy florida”
Flanzer’s Instagram often oscillated between adulation for police and pictures from inside nightclubs. The grandson of prominent Florida philanthropists, Flanzer ran his own record label, Nice Manor. He told the Sarasota Observer in February 2018 that he was a talent manager for the MTV reality show “Siesta Key.” (MTV did not return a request for comment, and Flanzer is not listed on the show’s IMDB page. One of Nice Manor’s clients, DJ Pauly Paul, is a recurring character on the show.)
Hours after sharing the picture of the Sig Sauer, he posted a picture of one of his clients brandishing what appeared to be the same gun, in a hoodie that Nice Manor sold online. All proceeds from the hoodies (featuring a decapitated “Spongebob Squarepants” character) would go to law enforcement, the company said on its website.
Also available on the label’s website were shirts and hoodies featuring the shooters from the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Although the school shooting has inspired an online culture of would-be shooters who set off multiple criminal investigations this year, Romine said the four boxes of Columbine hoodies found at Flanzer’s home were actually pro-police.
“It was something people in his circles would find artistic,” Romine said. “During this time frame [Flanzer had] a very strong inclination on his part to be very supportive of law enforcement.”
Romine wasn’t sure how many shirts the company sold. But months before the May 2018 shooting, Flanzer made headlines for a large donation to the Longboat Key, Florida, police department. Earlier that year, he gave $234,216.35 to the department for new cameras and computers. The department promised to install a plaque with Flanzer’s name on the outside of police headquarters, they told the Observer.
In March 2018, Nice Manor’s Twitter account began posting erratic screeds, alongside its usual clips of DJ sets. Some seemed aimed at settling scores with former business associates. Others targeted people connected with Flanzer’s wealthy family.
Flanzer’s philanthropist grandparents had disinherited him before their deaths, prompting Flanzer to sue the trustee of their estate. In a series of April 2018 tweets on the Nice Manor account, Flanzer accused the trustee of “stealing 500$ million +” from his family. He described the millions as “my own money” and claimed to be working with a journalist on a book that would expose his rivals.
On his personal Instagram, he began posting caches of weapons—some of them alongside Nice Manor logos, others with vague allusions to crime-fighting. “Nice men take out the bad men,” read an April 29 post featuring three guns and his record label’s logo. He also spent big on property in late March, dropping $550,000 on a three-bedroom home.
Romine told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Flanzer was becoming “increasingly distressed” about money, including his disinheritance. In addition to the lawsuit against the trustee of his grandparents’ estate, in late April Flanzer filed a lawsuit against a boating business in which he’d invested $300,000.
Drugs and mental illness compounded the problem, Romine said. “Ryan was suffering from an undiagnosed mental health issue and self-medicating with drugs,” he told The Daily Beast.
In his distress, Flanzer compiled a list of people he believed had wronged him financially. A police officer who found the list after his arrest characterized it as a “hit list,” although Romine disputed that characterization. “He wanted people to know who took advantage of him, if he killed himself,” he said.
Among the six names on the list were the trustee of Flanzer’s grandparents’ estate, the trustee’s lawyer, and Longboat Key Police Chief Peter Cumming, who had recently accepted Flanzer’s $200,000-plus donation.
It was a turn against the officers he’d so recently claimed to work alongside. On May 4, 2018, Flanzer allegedly dressed in body armor, a badge, and a holstered pistol and visited the home of a person on his list. When bystanders questioned him, he allegedly passed himself off as a cop.
“I’m looking for a wanted person,” he allegedly told them. “I work with law enforcement.” He was not charged in the incident.
The next day, he repeated the stunt at the condo of the boating company owner he was suing. This time, he told building security he was a process server. When he arrived at the empty apartment, he fired at the door lock before fleeing in his Cadillac Escalade and barricading himself in a Sarasota hotel. After a standoff with SWAT teams, he surrendered to police.
As he was arrested, Flanzer blamed officers for his financial losses. “I was going to apprehend a most wanted person that had personally stolen a million dollars from me because you guys were just not doing your job,” he told detectives, according to the Herald-Tribune.
He was booked on seven felony charges, including attempted armed burglary and impersonating an officer. All of those charges, except several drug counts and one count of firing a weapon, were dropped in his plea agreement this month, which allowed him to avoid jail in exchange for the time he’d spent in a Malibu, California, rehabilitation center since his arrest.
An attorney representing multiple people on Flanzer’s list told the Herald-Tribune they were still terrified and were hiring personal security details after his no-jail plea. Romine said their fears were unfounded.
“They have nothing to worry about. He doesn't think about these people. There was never a threat to these people,” he said. “He's at UCLA now virtually getting straight A's.”