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:
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
Update: The actual perp has been identified by the FBI, and he’s not Quintavalle, or even from Illinois. He’s also not a suspect in the death of the Capitol Police officer, but perhaps in the assault on another:
A recently retired firefighter from Delaware County was arrested Thursday morning for lobbing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers during the insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, federal authorities said.
Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, faces federal felony charges including assaulting a police officer. The projectile he is accused of throwing was not the one that killed Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was also struck in the head by a fire extinguisher during the melee and later died from his injuries, authorities said. …
According to court filings, Sanford recognized himself in the video and confessed to a friend that he was the person the FBI was searching for. He described traveling to Washington by bus Jan. 6 with a group of other people to hear President Donald Trump’s speech at a “Stop the Steal Rally” and then “following the president’s instructions” to march to the Capitol, the documents state.
That friend later turned him in to authorities, identifying him as a retired member of the Chester Fire Department. He told them Sanford claimed to have been on Capitol grounds for about 10 minutes and did not mention throwing any objects, agents said.
So “CFD” stood for Chester Fire Department, not Chicago Fire Department. Great work, Twitter mobs.