Retired Chicago firefighter David Quintavalle was accused by Twitter trolls of fatally heaving a fire extinguisher at police officers during the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 — but he was actually at home preparing a meal of filet mignon and lobster for his wife's birthday, according to Patch.
Quintavalle — who reportedly retired from the fire department in 2016 after more than three decades of service — became the target of a flurry of unsubstantiated accusations Tuesday after photos posted online showed a similarly looking man wearing a "CFD" hat wanted in connection with an attack during the riot.
Retired Chicago firefighter says Twitter trolls have wrongly accused him of being a "terrorist" who killed a police… https://t.co/AN0v5LCK9u— Patch (@Patch) 1610568009.0
Before long #extinguisherman began trending on Twitter and Quintavalle, unknown to him, was being suggested as the culprit behind the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who tragically died Jan. 7 as a result of injuries sustained when a rioter struck him with a fire extinguisher.
Police later clarified that the man in the photos was a "person of interest for another incident" unrelated to Sicknick, but by then it was too late.
"David Quintavalle, retired CFD, is the alleged murderer of the dead capitol police man. Soon to be arrested, if not already," wrote one Twitter user.
Another added: "This is the individual the FBI is seeking as a person of interest in connection with the murder of the Capitol Hill police officer. Twitter, do your thing."
Image Source: Twitter screenshot
"And his son is a cop. If David Quintavalle is the guy - a retired fire fighter who threw a fire extinguisher at a cop - the irony would be just too much," yet another Twitter user wrote in a since-deleted tweet, according to Patch.
The onslaught of accusations evidently drew out a friend of Quintavalle's who felt the need to vouch for his innocence.
"I personally know Retired CFD David Quintavalle, and this guy in the picture at the Capital is NOT HIM!" wrote Linda Gillespie in response to numerous tweets saying otherwise. If you view the tweet thread, you can see that several tweets have since been deleted.
Quintavalle, who is not active on social media, was reportedly unaware of the Twitter mob's assault on his character until a more tech-savvy friend informed him about what was happening.
"I got a phone call from a friend who said, 'You should see what they twittered about you,'" he said. "Some woman from British Columbia showed the picture of the guy wearing CFD stocking cap and a beard like I've had ... and said, 'This is the guy.' And the ball started rolling. Everybody started saying, 'Here's the guy.'"
By Tuesday night, Quintavalle began receiving angry calls from people calling him a "f***ing murderer'" and saying he belongs in jail, reporters were staking outside his home, and police had dispatched a patrol car watch overnight, according to his lawyer, John Nisivaco.
"I expect the federal government will soon shed light on this case of mistaken identity," Nisivaco told Patch. "Social media has killed David Quintavalle. This has been an absolute disaster to him personally and his family. There's a cop car outside his house. It's over a picture that kind of looks like him because people sitting behind a keyboard with no proof or evidence are throwing out these tweets, and they're wrong. Holy smokes, it's eye-opening how terrifying social media can be when something like this happens."
"This story has f***ed my life up," Quintavalle added.
On Thursday, federal agents arrested 55-year-old retired firefighter Robert Sanford, formerly of the Chester Fire Department in Chester, Pennsylvania, in connection with the crime that Quintavalle had been accused of committing.