An innocent man has been called a terrorist and targeted with threats after a group of Twitter users misidentified a retired Chicago firefighter as the man who used a fire extinguisher to attack a cop during the Capitol riot.
Twitter users at first publicized photos of the alleged perpetrator:
"This is the individual the FBI is seeking as a person of interest in connection with the murder of the Capitol Hill police officer. Twitter, do your thing," one user posted.
As more details emerged, users called for leaving identification to authorities.
"We need to RESPONSIBLY find the person of interest. Let the authorities make the call on positive IDs. Our job is to provide tips to the investigators. Leave the actual law enforcement work to the actual law enforcement professionals," the same user said.
As it turns out, David Quintavalle, the man who had Twitter users said was the man from the riot photo, went grocery shopping on the morning of January 6 and later cooked supper for his wife's birthday. He had been nowhere near the U.S. Capitol, and he only learned about the Twitter mob who was after him when a friend told him about it.
Quintavalle began receiving hateful phone calls calling him a "f---ing murderer." Police dispatched a patrol car to his house to keep watch, as posts on Twitter continued to accuse him of the attack.
"I got a phone call from a friend who said, ‘You should see what they twittered about you,'" said Quintavalle. "Some woman from British Columbia showed the [surveillance] picture of the guy wearing CFD stocking cap and a beard like I've had, and file footage when I was protesting the city inappropriately scoring the fire lieutenants exam, and said, ‘This is the guy.' And the ball started rolling. Everybody started saying, ‘Here's the guy.'"
Social media soon began to see details of Quintavalle's personal life, including his attendance of a "Walk to Support CPD" rally in August, and television reporters had staked out his house.
"This story has f---ed my life up," Quintavalle said.
John Nisivaco, Quintavalle's attorney, gave the DOJ and FBI evidence that Quintavalle was in Chicago on January 6.
‘I expect the federal government will soon shed light on this case of mistaken identity. Social media has killed David Quintavalle. This has been an absolute disaster to him personally and his family. There's a cop car outside his house," said Nisivaco. "It's over a picture that kind of looks like him because people sitting behind a keyboard with no proof or evidence are throwing out these tweets, and they're wrong. Holy smokes, it's eye-opening how terrifying social media can be when something like this happens."
The FBI announced that a retired Pennsylvania firefighter, Robert Sanford, was arrested and is facing three felony charges after allegedly throwing a fire extinguisher at another Capitol police officer.