A retired Chicago firefighter was the victim of mistaken identity after he was accused on social media of participating in last week's riot at the Capitol thanks to photos and video footage of a similar-looking man wearing a stocking cap with the letters "CFD" on them.
"This story has f----- my life up," David Quintavalle, who was in Chicago grocery shopping and celebrating his wife's birthday during the Jan. 6 unrest, told Patch.com.
The man in the images that spread on social media is named Robert Sanford, a former member of the Chester Fire Department in Pennsylvania. He was arrested Thursday by federal authorities and is accused of throwing a fire extinguisher at Capitol police during the unrest.
- FL Firefighter Arrested for Participating in Capitol Riot
- MD Fire Chief Describes 'Sobering' Response in DC
But Sanford's arrest hasn't erased the hell that Quintavalle says he's gone through for nearly a week. When riot images of the man in the CFD cap began appearing on social media, accusatory fingers began pointing at Quintavalle, who retired in 2016 and lives in Mount Greenwood, a south suburb of Chicago.
"I got a phone call from a friend who said, 'You should see what they twittered about you,'" said Quintavalle, who isn't on social media.
"Some woman from British Columbia showed the [surveillance] picture of the guy wearing CFD stocking cap and a beard like I've had, and file footage when I was protesting the city inappropriately scoring the fire lieutenants exam, and said, 'This is the guy.' And the ball started rolling. Everybody started saying, 'Here's the guy.'"
John Nisivaco, a lawyer representing Quintavalle, has been disturbed by the damage the off-base online amateur sleuthing has caused his client.
"Social media has killed David Quintavalle," he told Patch. "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."