A California man was mistakenly identified as the suspect responsible for starting a Los Angeles wildfire after photos of the victim were shared on a crime app and a $30,000 reward poster was put up.
Many residents called in false reports to law enforcement after seeing the alleged suspect lurking about. However, the victim has already been interviewed by authorities and cleared of suspicion.
The suspect wanted for the crime is believed to have started the 1,158-acre Pacific Palisades fire.
“We publicly posted the photo and offered a cash reward for information without formal coordination with the appropriate agencies. Once we realized this error, we immediately retracted the photo and reward offer. We are actively working to improve our internal processes to ensure this does not occur again. This was a mistake we are taking very seriously,” Citizen, the crime app, said on Sunday.
The Palisades fire forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in the Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon neighborhoods. Authorities began the evacuations on Friday night. Firefighters reported the blaze was 32% contained as of Tuesday.
Los Angeles police arrested 48-year-old Ramon Santos Rodriguez on Sunday in connection with the fire. They said a helicopter saw the suspect starting fires on Saturday morning but an arrest was not made due to the sheriff’s having to flee the scene for safety reasons.
Citizen’s post of another man’s photo who was mistakenly identified as the suspect in the crime had more than a million views before it was taken down. It also got violent comments saying, “let’s hunt him down.”
More than seven million users use Citizen across 30 cities and counties in the United States. The site said it has already sent in more than four billion alerts to law enforcement officials. It said its goal was to make the world a safer place for the people living in it by giving those who have access to a phone a chance to protect their neighbors, the Sacramento Bee reported.