A police chief on Facebook responded to a comment on his department’s page, sparking outrage. The reply aimed at a comment suggesting support for legal marijuana. The reply says that such views make the user a criminal suspect.
Ruben Santiago, an interim police chief from Columbia, South Carolina, went so far as to threaten the Facebook user, adding that the police would be trying to find him now. Even after the post was removed by department staff, Santiago insisted on returning to the social media site to defend his earlier statements.
It all began when Columbia police posted an announcement of an arrest and the successful seizure of $40,000 worth of marijuana on the department’s page, reports CNET. Soon after, a Facebook user added his two cents on the cops’ victorious drug bust in an online comment, gaining the attention of department chief Santiago.
As user Brandon Whitmer wrote: “Maybe u should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone. It’ll be legal here one day anyway.”
Irked by the comment, the interim police chief took to Facebook to fire back. Though the post has since been deleted, Daily Dot reports that Santiago replied via a comment: “@Brandon whitmer, we have arrested all the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.”
Reaction to the threat has been critical. Maybe the interim police chief from South Carolina misspoke. Maybe he just came off more threatening than he intended? After department staff removed the controversial Facebook post, Santiago got back online to post his defense of his comment:
Realizing the public relations nightmare this exchange was becoming, a spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department apologized for the interim chief’s remarks. The comment was meant to put possible criminals on notice and not as a threat directed at Whitmer, reports WIS-TV.
Whitmer has since stated on Facebook that he was not trying to show support for drug use. He just says he is more worried about violent crime than arresting drug users. Whitmer also expressed support for the police department and says that he did not mean to offend. He also asks other online users to “leave the man alone,” referring to interim police chief Ruben Santiago, who has come under fire from internet users.
Though Whitmer has been forgiving of the police chief’s comments, other Facebook users continued to express outrage over the incident. One user even went so far as to suggest people call a crime tip hotline to report interim police chief Ruben Santiago for making illegal threats.