With just days to go in 2014, this story might be a strong contender for sleaziest of the year. An online troll lied about having witnessed last night's shooting in Berkeley, Missouri — apparently just for kicks.
At 1:22 a.m., Twitter user @DesJuanTheThug posted: "I can't believe my best friend just died in front of me. #AntonioMartin." Antonio Martin is the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a police officer near Ferguson, Missouri, after reportedly raising a gun.
The St. Louis area has been at the center of a national debate on how the police use deadly force, especially concerning young Black men, and Martin's story quickly went national. In the hunt for an eyewitness, media and everyone else following the story took note; @DesJuanTheThug was interviewed by the Huffington Post and retweeted over 2,000 times.
And then his story fell apart. He refused to use his real name, going only by Jesús Christo, or to speak to reporters on the phone. Soon after the tweet about Martin's death, the account started posting sexually explicit jokes and plugging his Snapchat and Soundcloud (the link to which now appears broken). The Huffington Post issued a correction and the writer apologized on Twitter.
@DesJuanTheThug, however, seems to think the whole thing was pretty funny. In a series of Tweets in the hours after, he joked about having broken the Internet and mocked HuffPost for not doing a better job finding sources.
The stunt and the user's callous mocking of a tragedy drew the ire of the hacking group Anonymous, which promised to reveal @DesJuanTheThug's real identity, though so far it doesn't appear to have been successful.
Update: Since we went live, Anonymous has succeeded in publishing @DesJuanTheThug's identity, address and photos of his ID cards.