St. Paul bar releases the hounds on innocent Woodbury man

Perhaps you’ve noticed police departments increasing the use of social media to get help identifying suspects — they call them “persons of interest” — in crimes. It’s a troubling trend that is growing more troubling because businesses have started doing the same thing.

Last week, Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub used the power of social media to try to get back some pins that someone stole.

The restaurant posted security photos.

Tips started pouring in, KARE 11 reported. One of them fingered Matthew Rivera from Woodbury. One problem: Rivera hasn’t been to the restaurant in over a year.

No matter. The restaurant tagged Rivera’s Facebook page to try to shame him into bringing the ill-gotten goods he didn’t get back. He got hate messages and a text message from his boss.

The actual thieves — the ones in the photos — returned the stolen pins. But Rivera told KARE 11 the damage had already been done.

Tom Reid’s social media accounts posted apologies. Then deleted them all.

“It’s one thing to get rid of the posts where they mentioned him as a possible suspect. But it’s another to take down all the apology posts,” said attorney Jeffrey O’Brien with Chestnut Cambronne PA.

O’Brien points out the big danger in internet shaming — people who saw the first post might not have seen the apologies.

And O’Brien says the false claim was made worse by contacting Matthew’s employer.

“I think he’s got a strong case for damages,” O’Brien said.

The bar wouldn’t answer questions from KARE 11, giving a statement that reads, “We have apologized to Mr. Rivera, and we are truly sorry and embarrassed.”

Rivera, meanwhile, has advice for the online sleuthers. Stop it.

  • Jim in RF

    When I saw those posts circulated by the local newsies and influencers, I pointed them out to my wife and she presciently brought up “What if they’re wrong?” Absolutely dickish move by the restaurant, made worse by the twitter accomplices.

  • It’s tricky business, because police departments have essentially said they’re not going to investigate these cases. So I don’t blame the business owners for trying to shame people and get their stuff back. When you as a business go after an individual and tag their employer – based on a comment in a FB thread – that’s dangerous stuff.

    • Mike

      When businesses start getting successfully sued for defamation and having to pay damages, the behavior will change. This is just the latest example of “trial by social media” (the 21st century version of a lynch mob). Unfortunately the concept of due process is out of fashion at various levels of government, with authorities in general, and in popular culture too. Dangerous indeed.

      • If it were my business, I would share images/surveillance video on Facebook and Instagram, though. But I would not respond to comments. Let people suggest tips and leave it at that.

        • Veronica

          I’d go a step further; as the business owner, I’d delete any comments on my post that name names. If someone knows or think they know who it is, that info can be sent directly to the business via email or DM.

        • Mike

          That might be sufficiently restrained to keep a business out of trouble, but maybe not if people start posting specific names and/or addresses of someone whom they believe (not necessarily accurately) is represented in the image.

          The business might still be legally liable if an innocent person were harmed as the result of comments posted by someone else on the business’s social media page(s). Definitely worth a consultation with an attorney.

        • Rob

          And then what? Have a couple bouncers pay a visit to the suspects?
          Here’s an alternative: Have memorabilia valued before you display it, and if someone swipes it, file an insurance/loss claim.

          • Postal Customer

            This is the only sane response to such an incident.

          • Jeff C.

            Another option – Hire Magnum P.I. to investigate. (Seriously – Hire a professional investigator to investigate.)

  • Gary Leatherman

    Vigilante justice can end up being expensive. This is why Batman had to be a billionaire.

  • Postal Customer

    Yet another reason to get off facebook.

  • John F.

    This practice should make us uncomfortable. Every time I see these stories, it makes me think of this sad event:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/wrongly-accused-boston-bombing-sunil-tripathys-story-now-being-told-n373141

  • christina l

    I would advise Mr Rivera to seek council. This business defamed him and sought to threaten his job and livelihood with false accusations. How embarrassed the man must have been to hear that his boss thought he was a thief. The owner’s personal vengeance has created liability for the bar. He should not be making business decisions if he can’t control his Facebook fingers

  • AL287

    O what a tangled web we weave when first we Facebook shame a thief!