The tweets that caught the attention of police started coming from the Twitter account linked to @RobThaProphet at 4 a.m. on Feb. 23.
And they kept coming.
“I’m tired of f*****g crying all day all every day. Nobody see my pain and I gotta suck it up cause I play football and have to maintain a perfect image. It’s so hard for me to be fake. I been depressed all my life tryna be fake to make it out. F*** that yo. This system f*****d up.”
@RobThaProphet, 11:14 a.m., Feb. 23
“Bullies get bullied on my block! I won’t let NO MORE kids get played. I kept it too real with y’all. Y’all was too fraud to appreciate it. The fake never wins. Only the real prevails in this world. Learn life.”
@RobThaProphet, 12:27 p.m., Feb. 23
By the end of the day, more than 150 of the messages had been sent from the Twitter account of ex-ASU football player Edward “Robbie” Eugene Robinson IV.
Some were menacing, others were deemed threatening and all were part of a public meltdown that would land the former Barrett Honors College student and four-star recruit in jail on allegations that he made “terroristic threats” and disrupted an educational institution.
About 11:30 a.m., @RobThaProphet posted something that included reference to buying a gun and “(spraying) the stadium up,” according to court records. Hours later, after ASU and Tempe police got involved, Robinson was arrested.
So what took the defensive back, who had offers from Duke, Stanford, Clemson and Penn State, from pursuing his football dreams in Tempe to a restricted unit at a Maricopa County jail?
Robinson’s close friends and family members are trying to figure that out.
“This is not Robbie,” said his father, Edward “Robbie” Eugene Robinson III. “Whatever’s going on with him now – I don’t know what’s going on with him.”
Robinson’s lawyers agreed. A motion filed by his counsel noted that during a Feb. 24th meeting, “counsel found Mr. Robinson…not in touch with reality. It was, and is, counsel’s belief that Mr. Robinson underwent some sort of psychotic episode or ‘break.’”
“A shock to everybody”
A Virginia native, Robinson maintained a 4.2 GPA at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, before joining the Barrett’s Honors College while enrolled at ASU.
His family noted that he was highly involved outside of football, serving as student body president in middle school and tutoring classmates. His football accolades were always complimented with academic achievement awards in various subjects.
But once he moved across the country, something changed, his father said.
“I just had no idea of what he was going through. He was out here by himself, no family,” Robinson’s father said. “Even when he was asking to come back home, I was just saying ‘fight it out, tough it out,’ but not knowing.
“As a father, I’m just trying to teach him perseverance and fortitude, because you’re going to go through a lot of things in life, but… I didn’t know he was depressed.”
Robinson was ranked as high as a four-star recruit by ESPN and Rivals. Ahead of his signing with ASU, he was heralded as a playmaker who would make an impact in more ways than one.
“He’s also a smart kid, someone you’re not going to have to worry about off the field. He’ll be a leader probably from Day 1,” Michael Clark, a regional recruiting analyst for Scout.com said when Robinson was coming out of high school.”He’s just everything you could want in a potential student-athlete on top of being just a great football player.”
Robinson had scholarship offers to play at traditional football factories and academic heavyweights alike, but he ultimately chose to become a Sun Devil, citing the staff’s love among the reasons for his commitment to ASU.
“The team has a brotherhood that stood out to me my first day there,” Robinson said in part on Twitter after signing with ASU. “Their saying ‘Brotherhood’ is really true there. You’d think they’ve been around each other all their lives.”
Robinson’s family said he had suffered a few concussions during his playing career. In a screenshot of a text conversation that he tweeted on Feb. 23, Robinson noted “I have headaches everyday. I feel 40.”
While Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) cannot be diagnosed until after death, Robinson will undergo other evaluations in the next few weeks to try to determine what may have happened.
“I think that’s the most important thing right now, is getting him evaluated mentally,” said Robinson’s lawyer, Corwin A. Townsend. “This was a shock to everybody in terms of what happened.”
Family: Robinson’s tweets were cry for help
Robinson pleaded not guilty on all charges in a Maricopa County courtroom in early March. His next appearance is scheduled for April 25, though that may change as he goes through mental-health evaluations.
In the meantime, Robinson’s family is emphasizing that they believe his tweets were not representative of a terror threat.
“He was depressed, and everything was in past tense. He was talking about how he was feeling at the time,” his father said. “He thought about suicide, and it was just thoughts that he had because he was depressed.
“And then he sent out the tweet about the stadium, but he was talking about how he felt in past tense, and where he’s at now, he’s at peace now.”
Robinson has found support across the country as well.
A GoFundMe set up for him and tweets from other friends and family echoed the sentiment that his tweets were not meant to be an immediate threat.
“Everything was a misunderstanding because people took things the wrong way when he was speaking the truth on social media about certain things that has happened in his past,” the GoFundMe post states.
Many of Robinson’s tweets on Feb. 23 and the days leading up touched on his ideas for social change and education projects in his hometown. However, others lashed out directly and explicitly at former coaches and teammates.
Robinson’s account was limited by Twitter for 12 hours on Feb. 22 for violating rules against hateful conduct, according to a screenshot he posted upon return at 4 a.m. on Feb. 23.
Robinson’s tweets amplified by Parkland?
While his father said that Robinson was never in possession of a gun, the tweets took on a different meaning in light of recent events.
“He never had any intent to do anything, never had a weapon, never anything. He was just in a bad space,” his father said. “I have kids in elementary school, so I understand the threats. I understand them. But this is not that.”
Police were likely on high alert: Robinson’s tweets came just nine days after a shooting that killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
In the following days, a number of threats against Valley schools surfaced, prompting both school closures and arrests.
Initial police reports said that ASU put several buildings on lockdown, when Robinson’s tweets began to delve into what police called “a fatalist state of mind.”
ASU associate vice president Bret Hovell said no buildings were put on lockdown, but a police officer was stationed at Sun Devil Stadium.
After barricading himself at a friend’s apartment and refusing requests to exit, Robinson would later surrender to Tempe SWAT, according to police documents.
“I understand the climate, with everything going on with the Florida shooting, it’s a horrible time for this,” Robinson’s father said. “Because of everything going on, they’re trying to group him with everything that’s going on, and he’s not that. Robbie’s never been a violent kid, never been in a fight.
“If this would have happened six or seven months ago, he’d be home with me right now.”