A Malaysia man who actively tweets about US current affairs is being slammed for falsely identifying a suspect in Saturday’s shooting of two Los Angeles police officers.
Ian Miles Cheong, known as Twitter user @Stillgray, wrote Monday that a 33-year-old Darnell Hicks was the authority’s “number one suspect” in the shooting of two police officers. The LA County Sheriffs later refuted Cheong’s statement as “erroneous” and that they had no named suspects yet. But basketball coach Hicks, who is also a father of two, was already fearing for his life, telling reporters on Tuesday that he was being harassed and had received death threats.
Thousands continue to criticize Cheong online today and called on Twitter to take action against his account. For years, Cheong has been posting largely right-wing views on US politics to his verified account, where he has amassed more than 300,000 followers. It was only last year when he revealed that he lives on the other side of the world, in Malaysia.
“Ian Miles Cheong is an absolute fucking disgrace to Malaysia and Twitter should permanently ban his account for endangering another innocent man’s life,” Twitter user @MegatFirdauz wrote today.
“So @Stillgray almost got a guy killed. Darnell Hicks was not involved. @TwitterSupport really needs to take this misinformation seriously,” another user @MikeStuchbery_ said yesterday.
Cheong yesterday acknowledged the false allegation but not his culpability.
“Compton resident Darnell Hicks was wrongfully accused of the shooting of two police deputies. The information that was previously provided was erroneous,” Cheong wrote yesterday, including in his tweet Hicks’ statement to the press.
Cheong’s baseless allegation was posted two days after LA police on Saturday placed a bounty on the unidentified suspect with a reward worth US$175,000. The suspect was described as “Black male, 28 to 30 years old, wearing dark clothing.”
Cheong’s now-deleted offending tweet had read: “Heard on the grapevine that 33-year-old, Compton resident DARNELL HICKS is the LASD number one suspect in the shooting of two deputies on Saturday. Will post further information once I get it.”
Hours later, the police called out the misinformation, saying: “Currently, there is a social media post that is being circulated which identifies a male out of the Los Angeles area as the suspect responsible for the ambush of our 2 deputies yesterday. This is ERRONEOUS information and there are no named or wanted suspects at this time.”
Another person who criticized Cheong today was Twitter user Jeremiah Harding, who said: “Ian Miles Cheong LIED about a man named Darnell Hicks, claiming with no proof that he was responsible for shooting two cops.”
“As a result, the father of two endured death threats, harassment, and more. Stop spreading sourceless claims – or here may be blood on your hands,” he added.
But Cheong was not the only one who had framed Hicks as the Black man police were looking for. Hicks was being doxxed in Facebook groups such as Make California RED Again!, where his photo and full name was shared. Hicks told reporters on Tuesday that he had nothing to do with the shooting and gave his well wishes to the two officers who were afflicted. One of them was released from the hospital today.
“Whoever keeps framing me, making it seem like I shot two sheriffs when I was out dirt-biking all Saturday, come on now,” Hicks said. “I just want to send my prayers to the two deputies that were injured. I want you to know that I’m innocent, it had nothing to do with me.”
He added: “And for any other Black man out there, to be aware, because the description was ‘a Black male,’ so it (false accusations) could happen to anybody.”
Cheong has not responded to Coconuts KL’s request for comment.
This is not the first time Cheong has propagated inaccurate information. Twitter suspended his account for seven days last month after the Donald Trump-supporter wrote about Black Lives Matter protesters burning “a stack” of bibles in Portland when only one was on fire.
It is not clear where in Malaysia he lives, but data revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists linked him to an address in Ipoh, Perak and an offshore company called Cyber Level Limited it said was registered in the Bahamas.
Cheong wrote online last year that he lives in Malaysia.
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