Siesta Key star Alex Kompothecras was at the Key West, Florida, airport about to board a flight when a friend sent him a link to a video that left him disgusted.
“I was, like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Kompothecras, 22, tells PEOPLE of being sent a video of his friend Michael Wenzel and two other men allegedly dragging a shark by its fin behind a boat at high speed. “I was absolutely horrified.”
But by the time the MTV reality star landed in New York City, he was shocked to find that — despite the fact he is not in the video and claims he’s never been on Wenzel’s boat — he had been linked to Wenzel and had begun receiving hate on his social media accounts.
“I started seeing a couple messages on Facebook, like, ‘You’re a piece of crap,’ ” he says.
Soon the hate evolved into death threats.
“I got some horrific comments,” says Kompothecras. “My mom took it the hardest. She sobbed for three days in a row because she was scared for me. I couldn’t even go outside to walk my dog. It’s been hectic and scary.”
A Facebook page called “Boycott Siesta Key MTV” was created and a protest was planned for the premiere party on Monday night. After death threats were allegedly directed at a cast member, the local premiere was canceled.
Kompothecras says the hardest part of the entire experience has been watching his family, friends and cast mates be dragged into the scandal with him.
“I’m getting death threats and I’ve never in my entire life been fishing. It’s scary,” says Siesta Key‘s Madisson Hausburg, 23. “I understand why people are upset because I was absolutely horrified by the video. It was disgusting. It was awful. But I had absolutely nothing to do with it. No one on the show had anything to do with it. I think there was some misinformation that this Michael guy is a part of the show but he’s not — and he never has been.”
“I’ve been getting DMs from people telling me they hope all of us commit suicide,” adds castmate Brandon Gomes, 22. “I’ve known Alex for almost half my life and it’s totally unfair that he’s being slammed for something he had nothing to do it.”
“It would be one thing if it was something I’d done and I’d gotten caught but this is something I am 100 percent against,” says Kompothecras. “I’ve been fishing for 15 years in Sarasota and I’m very respectful of the profession. I love the water. I consider it my backyard and I would never consider doing something like that. I don’t condone what he did and I was horrified by it.”
Kompothecras says Wenzel has reached out to him but he’s not ready to talk to him yet.
“Michael has been calling me but I haven’t responded to him because I’m personally offended. We’re friends but I’m so disappointed in him,” Kompothecras says of Wenzel, who is being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Michael deserves what’s happening to him but I had nothing to do with this and my family and friends don’t deserve this hate.”
Kompothecras says Wenzel has been fishing together in the past (on the reality star’s boat) but he does not believe he was in the same city as Wenzel when the video was shot.
“We’ve spoken to Alex and many others at length, and it’s clear that he was not on the boat nor played any role in this incredibly disturbing incident,” an MTV spokesperson says in a statement exclusive to PEOPLE. “We hope the serious threats unfairly being made against Alex and the other cast members – for something they had absolutely nothing to do with – stop.”
But Kompothecras is owning up to some photos of him that raised eyebrows among animal rights activists in light of the shark-dragging scandal.
“There are images of me and I feel horrible,” says Kompothecras who has deleted a video from his Instagram account that depicted a man shooting a gun at a shark in the water. “I am embarrassed and it won’t happen again.”
There are also photos of his younger self with deer and alligators he seemingly killed while legally hunting and another of him and a friend with a fish being force-fed beer.
“I’ve made my share of bad decisions and I feel horrible, but all I can say is that I would not make those decisions again,” he says. “I was being stupid but I’ve grown from that. It’s an eye-opener for me because it’s made me think long and hard about things I’ve done and I’ve learned from that. This has all been a shocking experience.”