ACWORTH, Ga -- Social media sites are a positive and important tool for law enforcement agencies that use them to reach out to the public for help solving crimes. But those social media networks can also be very dangerous and detrimental to police.
Police in Cobb County and Bowie, MD spent hours on New Year's Day tracking down a series of tweets that gave a blow by blow description of an apparent rape and murder.
It turned out to be a hoax that not only caught law enforcement off guard, but also got an Acworth homeowner caught up in the social media firestorm.
Early New Year's morning a tweeter with the handle "Lil Juan" tweeted out a photo of a passed out woman saying "Somebody put something in her drink...me and my brother bout to rape this b____"
An exchange between Lil Juan and another tweeter, whose handle is "TaBarius," went back and forth describing the crime until finally TaBarius tweeted "Thank god I watched breaking bad. I know how to get rid of a body and the evidence."
Police eventually tracked the exchange to two high school students in Bowie, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. "Of course we took it seriously," said Bowie Police Chief John Nesky. "They had thought it would be a funny thing to cut and paste a photo from another website, put it out on their Twitter account, and make these highly inappropriate comments about them."
The exchange went wild on Twitter and on viral media websites. One comment gave an Acworth address as the crime scene. That's why Cobb County Police got involved.
"I don't know how they got my address," said Joe McCrary, who lives in the house. McCrary was out of town when police came to his house on New Year's Day. He said his mother and brother were at the home feeding his dogs.
Once inside the home police determined it was not the crime scene because it didn't match the pictures that were posted on Twitter.
McCrary was a random victim and he doesn't know why. Neither do Cobb County Police, according to Sgt. Dana Pierce.
"Why me," McCrary asked. "First of all, let's hope nothing's happening, I mean, to the poor girl."
But there was no girl, no rape, and no murder. According to police, there was no crime because there was no victim. "I sat down and counseled them (two teens) about the inappropriateness of their actions," Chief Nesky said. "I talked to their parents about it so hopefully there will be a life lesson involved."
Police spent hours investigating the case until they could comfortably rule out a crime had taken place. Sgt. Pierce said he handled over a hundred calls from all over the world from people who had been following the viral exchange. "People should never believe as fact, anything they read on a social media website," he said.
You can follow Kevin on Twitter @krowson11alive