California vigilantes attack mentally ill homeless man targeted in phony Facebook panic
Vigilantes attacked a mentally disabled homeless man in California after phony Facebook warnings about him were posted over the weekend.
The all-capital letters posts began circulating Friday on social media, warning that the man was trying to break into Modesto homes and assault women, reported the Modesto Bee.
The Facebook posts described the man and where he could be found, along with a plea to share the warnings and possibly save women’s lives, and police said they received calls about him throughout the weekend – although none of them reported any crimes.
Investigators said the original Facebook post was based on a third-hand account and was inaccurate.
Officers said the possibly mentally ill man had verbally harassed passersby while panhandling and might have tried to open doors to private property, but they received no reports that he had physically harmed anyone.
One woman said she was alarmed when the man knocked on her door and asked for blankets on a hot day.
Police said they stopped the man Friday for questioning, and although they said “he appeared to be not 100 percent there mentally,” he was not on probation or parole, had no weapons, provided identification, and cooperated with officers.
Officers issued their own cautionary post on social media, saying the Facebook warnings about the man were false and expressing concern the man might himself become a victim of violence.
That’s what happened Friday afternoon, when a group of men went looking for the homeless man and beat him up.
Witnesses said they saw a group of men in black T-shirts chase the terrified man into traffic.
The man refused medical treatment for minor injuries and declined to press charges, police said.
Their investigation is closed, but police said the man could be arrested if he violates the city’s aggressive panhandling ordinance.
Watch this video report posted online by KOVR-TV: