A tweet allegedly sent from the account of District Attorney Rachel Rollins has gone viral over the past 24-hours regarding the pending charges of Boston Police Officers for an incident with a naked homeless man. The tweet was initially ignored after it was assumed to be misinformation, however after countless calls, texts, and emails to us here at Live Boston about the seemingly absurd tweet, we decided to investigate. We reached out to a number of sources including the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston Police, and The Boston Police Patrolman’s Association in hopes of getting to the bottom of it before it grew too large. We located a video of the original incident and investigated the alleged released tweet we referenced. After countless hours we produced the following.
Sometime last week, Boston Police Officers encountered a naked, African American man outside of the Walgreens in Downtown Crossing. The man is a well known and documented EDP that frequents the area of Downtown Crossing according to someone we spoke to that is familiar with him. He suffers from serious mental illness and is well known to both police and social workers in the area. On the date in question the man was taken into custody after striking an officer as can be seen in the video, however it was with extreme self control and professionalism we see officers bring the man to the ground and handcuff him. At no point is any form of extreme force or aggression used, and the man remained unharmed. It is unclear after this video if he was arrested or simply sent to a hospital for treatment; however, the facts remain that the officers on scene handled themselves with the utmost restraint and professionalism the same that someone would hope their own family member were treated if dealing with similar health issues.
Earlier this afternoon a screen shot of a tweet began circling certain social groups, including social media pages of both pro-law enforcement as well as anti-police and Black Lives Matter. The tweet claiming to be from District Attorney Rollins states that she is “aware and currently investigating” what the tweet is claiming – that the officers “violently” assaulted a naked man. By this morning, that screenshot had made it to us over a hundred times, with people contacting us across all platforms. We immediately began making phone calls and sending emails hoping that the tweet was false because after all the video we all just watched showed nothing but the excellence that has become synonymous with men and women in Boston Police Department. After a few hours we began to receive confirmation from multiple sources that the tweet was infact a fake. Finally, the District Attorney Rollins’ Office responded to our request for a comment where they stated that the tweet was, “fraudulent and never came from the DA’s account and the office is looking into its origin.”
Once it was established the tweet was fabricated, the question became how such a controversy could have been made so easily by a third party. A short web search located multiple sites that allowed false tweets to be created that looked shockingly real. At no cost, a user can create what ever tweets they would want, even including the coveted blue checkmark (something Twitter still refuses to give us for some reason). We tested out an example since Rollins is such a fan of LB617.
The lesson to be learned from this debacle is how easily the information we are often fed from online sources can be twisted and compromised. Whether it be us affirming our own stance, or vilifying someone who has become a target, the goal should be to all work together towards making sure the information we source be factual and reliable. As many know, we have published numerous opinion articles on what we consider to believe boarder-line criminal behavior by our District Attorney, but it takes away from these incidents when we use fake, clearly forged information to further our stance. The use of this poor man’s misfortune as political fodder is tasteless and wrong at baseline. However, more importantly, regardless of political affiliation, we urge everyone to stop and consider the consequences of fake, clearly manufactured information has had. They have led us further away from each other, causing more divide between us as a city at a time where unity is so important.