A California youth football coach says he was devastated to be falsely accused of being the gunman behind the ambush of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies.
Darnell Hicks was stunned to see his name linked to the attack hours after the two officers were shot as they sat in their patrol car in Compton, California.
Mr Hicks said he was at home last Saturday evening when he began to get text messages, which included a fake police alert that carried his name, address, driving licence photo and licence plate number.
The bogus social media posts even claimed Mr Hicks, 33, was armed and dangerous and had “vowed to shoot” more police officers.
“I didn’t think nothing of it at first,” Mr Hicks told Fox News.
“I thought they were just playing games with me, like a prank.”
A graphic video of the shooting showed a gunman approaching the two deputies outside the Compton Metro station and firing at them through their vehicle’s passenger window.
The deputies, a 31-year-old woman and 24-year-old man, were rushed to hospital and underwent surgery, with the male deputy released several days later.
Mr Hicks told Fox News he had been out on his motorbike all day and was so worried about the accusations he called the Compton Sheriff’s station.
The department later had to clarify on social media that the fake posts were “ERRONEOUS information.”
Mr Hicks says he now fears for the safety of his two daughters, and 93-year-old mother, with whom he lives in Compton
“I know for a fact that most people are going to start looking at me differently because they follow trends on social media,” he said.
“They see people saying negative things and a lot of people are going to run with that.
“I just happened to get food at night and a guy said a joke like, “Oh, you’re the cop killer” and he was just laughing.”
No suspect has yet been identified in the shooting and a reward of more than $300,000 has been offered.