Ask not for whom the Twitter lynch mob tolls, it tolls for … anyone in CFD gear, apparently. David Quinavalle spent January 6th quietly at home in the Chicago area celebrating his wife’s birthday, but that didn’t matter to a mob of Twitter sleuths looking for the identities of those involved in the Capitol riots. After a picture of one man wearing a CFD cap showed up in the pictures and videos, the mob came after Quintavalle, a retired firefighter with a passing resemblance:
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. pic.twitter.com/KUKliu9zhp
— Political Southpaw (@DahlELama2) January 11, 2021
The retired Chicago firefighter from Mount Greenwood — whom social media trolls called a “terrorist” and accused of fatally wielding a fire extinguisher that killed a cop as a mob of Trump-supporting insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 — was grocery shopping and celebrating his wife’s birthday in Chicago, Patch has learned.
Twitter exploded with unsubstantiated claims Tuesday that Quintavalle — who retired from the fire department in 2016 after 32 years — was the bearded “#extinguisherman” in a surveillance video wearing a “CFD” stocking cap wanted for questioning and “soon to be arrested” by the FBI regarding the fatal beating of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
Quintavalle, who shaved his beard before Christmas, told Patch that he wasn’t in Washington, D.C., last week. He went grocery shopping at Aldi at 9 a.m. and made a home-cooked supper of filet mignon and lobster to celebrate his wife’s birthday with their Chicago police officer son on the day rioters breached the Capitol.
Because Quintavalle doesn’t have any social media accounts, he didn’t know that a Twitter lynch mob had formed up to track him down. That’s when the calls started coming to his house:
By Tuesday night, Quintavalle began getting angry calls from people saying he’s a “f—— murderer” who belongs in jail. TV news reporters had staked out his house. Chicago police dispatched a patrol car to keep watch overnight, as well, his lawyer said. …
“This story has f—– my life up,” Quintavalle said.
“Social media has killed David Quintavalle,” his attorney said, speaking metaphorically. Quintavalle might count himself lucky that it didn’t do that literally. He now has to hope that this story gets out widely enough to reverse the damage done by the Twitter mob, and to keep anyone from deciding to take the law into their own hands … against the wrong guy.
The proper way for Twitter to “do its thing” would have been for people to send the information to the FBI rather than make their accusations in a public forum. It’s not as if we haven’t been burned by hasty “identifications” based on surveillance images and/or rumors before. In fact, media outlets have screwed that up a number of times, and have had to pay some significant financial consequences for those rushes to judgment. Quintavalle might have some really good defamation cases to file here too, but he’d have to remain alive for that to matter.
But Twitter has some accountability here too, especially after assuming an editorial practice with other users over the last few days, months, and years. Why are they allowing their users to make unsubstantiated claims of identity from these photographs? The tweets and at least a couple of the accounts have been deleted, but this might have gotten someone killed — and still might, to the extent that it could be happening with other people. If Twitter wants to talk about social responsibility, this might be a very good place to start.
Update: If Twitter’s trying to clean this up, they’re not doing a very good job.
After the false claims he was involved in the riot, David Quintavalle received angry calls calling him a “fucking murderer,” TV crews staked out his house & police dispatched a patrol car to keep watch.
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) January 14, 2021