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A man from Compton said his life was turned upside down after he was falsely identified on social media as the shooter in an ambush against Los Angeles County sheriffs over the weekend.
With a manhunt underway for the shooter who has yet to be identified by investigators, social media posts have started circulating with the photo, address and license plate number of the Darnell Hicks’ driver’s license, designating him as a potential suspect. The messages called Hicks armed and dangerous.
Shortly after the two MPs were shot in their patrol vehicle on Saturday outside a Compton underground station, the Sheriff’s Department described the gunman only as a dark-skinned male.
Hicks, 33, told KTLA he thought he was being joked when he started texting people he knew with a lookout post with his face on it. But he soon realized that it was serious and that he needed legal help.
The description was a black man, so it could happen to anyone, Hicks said on Monday.
A father and youth football coach, Hicks says he feared for his safety and that of his family after being wrongly accused. He said he was riding dirt bikes all Saturday, but people put my face on really fast.
Hicks’ attorney Brian Dunn of Cochran Law Firm says the Compton man has no connection to the shooting.
Anyone would suffer tremendously when falsely accused of a crime, especially such a heinous crime like this, Dunn said.
The deputies were in their patrol car outside a subway station when an unidentified assailant shot them in the head at close range, according to the sheriff’s department. The two were in stable condition on Monday and are expected to survive.
Hicks said the incident resulted in death threats, and even though authorities cleared him of his involvement, people are still angry with the situation.
I have two daughters, he said. I don’t even feel safe to eliminate them anymore.
After social media posts gained traction, the Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet on Sunday that they were wrong and there were no suspects named or wanted at this time.
There was bad information circulating yesterday about a suspect, Sheriff Alex Villanueva added during a briefing Monday. All of this information is false.
But Dunn and Hicks say the damage has been done.
According to Dunn, it’s still not clear why Hicks was charged in the first place. He said Hicks was thrown in that pit for nothing other than the color of his skin.
There has been a complete blackout of information, where it came from, he said. No one took responsibility for it.
Hicks said the situation had affected his livelihood as well.
I have my own line of clothing. I do a lot of business on my own, he says. People look at me differently now.
Community activist Jasmyne Cannick said it raised concerns for anyone who might qualify as dark skinned.
When you have a case of mistaken identity, what if he was killed? What if someone thought he was the wanted suspect? she asked.
Hicks said he wanted to send my prayers to both MPs and send a message to other black men.
For any other black man out there, just be aware, he said. The description was a black man.
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