In the midst of the deadliest attack on law enforcement officers since 9/11, the Dallas police department used social media to reach out to the public for help finding the people responsible. But instead of clarity, there was more confusion.
When the Dallas police tweeted a photo of Mark Hughes with the caption “This is one of our suspects. Please help us find him!”, they set off a manhunt for the wrong man.
Hughes told Dallas TV station KTVT that when he got phone calls from friends and family about the circulating photo, he immediately flagged down a police officer to explain the situation. He said he was initially “laughing and joking with police officers” at the scene.
The Dallas police, in a subsequent tweet to provide an update to followers, wrote “The person of interest whose picture has been circulated just turned himself in.” Hughes was held for about 30 minutes and released, according to reports.
Hughes said during the police interrogation, officers told him they had a video of him shooting and that witnesses had reported seeing him shoot a gun. Hughes called both of the statements “lies.”
Lawyers for Hughes said he was carrying his gun legally. Hughes said he was persecuted “unrightly” and the law enforcement officials “need to do something about that.”
“At the end of the day,” he said, “the system was trying to get me.”
The incident was similar to a situation following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, when news outlets picked up on a social media post by a Brown University student that falsely identified a classmate, Sunil Tripathi, as one of the alleged suspects.
Tripathi, who at that point had been missing for weeks, was found dead in the Providence River shortly after the marathon.