After the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department advised the public it was seeking a “dark skinned male” in the Saturday ambush shooting of two deputies in Compton, an innocent man was quickly accused of the crime in posts that spread unabated on social media.
Over the weekend, posts began to circulate on Facebook in what appear to be neighborhood anti-crime groups saying that Darnell Hicks, a 33-year-old father of two and youth football couch in Compton, was a suspect in the attack. The posts featured Hicks’s driver’s license photo and license plate number, and described him as armed and dangerous.
“This suspect has vowed to shoot more law enforcement officers,” the post reads, right above Hicks’s picture.
Hicks, who has been cleared of any connection to the shooting by the Sheriff’s Department, says he thought he was being pranked when he started receiving texts of the post over the weekend, but quickly realized it was no joke.
“The description was a Black male, so it could happen to anybody,” Hicks told KTLA Monday, adding that people “put my face out there real fast.”
Currently, there is a social media post that is being circulated which identifies a male out of the Los Angeles area as the suspect responsible for the ambush of our 2 deputies yesterday. This is ERRONEOUS information and there are no named or wanted suspects at this time.
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) September 14, 2020
Although the Sheriff’s Office tweeted on Monday that it had “no named or wanted suspects,” Hicks’s attorney, the Cochran Firm’s Brian Dunn, says the department has not been helpful in investigating how Hicks’s name was ever connected with the shooting in the first place.
Describing Hicks as being “thrown into this pit for nothing other than the color of his skin,” Dunn said, “There has been a complete blackout in terms of the information, where it has come from. Nobody has taken responsibility for it.”
Hicks says the damage has already been done. “I have two daughters. I don’t even feel safe taking them out no more,” he told KTLA. “I’ve got my own clothing line. I do a lot of business on my own. People looking at me differently now.”
The two deputies—a 31-year-old woman who was shot through her mouth and arms, and her partner, a 24-year-old man shot in his head, shoulder, and arm as they sat in their cruiser outside the Compton Metro station—are in stable condition and expected to survive.
Hicks sent his prayers to the deputies, but he also had a warning: “For any other Black man out there, just be aware. The description was a Black male.”
Meanwhile Sheriff Alex Villanueva has ham-fistedly challenged Lakers player LeBron James to double the sheriff’s department reward, which has been raised from $175,000 to $200,000, for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.
“You expressed a very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact that it has on the African American community,” Villanueva said in an interview Monday with 790 KABC, referring to James. “And I appreciated that. But likewise, we need to appreciate that respect for life goes across all professions.”
Though James has not responded to Villanueva, Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant has. On Instagram on Monday, Bryant—who is suing the Sheriff’s Department over leaked photos of the helicopter crash scene where Kobe, their daughter Gianna, and seven others died—shared screenshots of tweets by other users about Villanueva’s comments.
How can he talk about trusting the system? His sheriff’s dept. couldn’t be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them. https://t.co/X48h2h4MNv
— Elan (@ElanMaree) September 15, 2020
“How can he talk about trusting the system?” read one tweet. “His sheriff’s dept. couldn’t be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them.”
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