Social media has turned into a space which invites some vigilantism, but what happens when a community places blame on the wrong person?
On Saturday October 8th 2011 a young man in Surrey, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada died in a hospital after being stabbed in the neck. Eighteen year old Jamie Kehoe was stabbed on a bus the previous night after a fight broke out. It appears as though Kehoe was stabbed as a result of the chaos following the fight, but the police have yet to publically identify as culprit. However, that hasn’t stopped social media from pointing fingers. Social media users in the Surrey area have identified Garnet Ford as the person responsible for Kehoe’s death; however, the police have released a report stating that this is not the case.
In a media statement, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said that: “Ford has received death threats and is in fear for his safety. Ford has voluntarily spoken with police and has since been interviewed by IHIT investigators. Garnet Ford has been ruled out as a suspect in Jamie Kehoe’s homicide.”
IHIT media relations officer Sgt. Jennifer Pound notes that, “To call someone a murderer without the evidence to support it poses problems for investigators and the innocent people being blamed.” She continued: “The public need to focus on letting the police lead the investigation by facts and bringing those responsible for this tragic death to justice.”
Will the public statement be enough to clear Ford’s name? It’s a question that must be haunting all involved, and as social media plays a progressively more prominent role in people’s every day live, we are reminded that accusations on social media are very real. If you find yourself tweeting about a violent incident, remember to check your facts.