On Sunday afternoon, a Texas cardiologist wrote on Twitter that his daughter in Baltimore had been attacked by “BLM" or Black Lives Matter activists, and that city police refused to do anything because the suspects were Black.
“Is this the America we want?” he tweeted. Nearly 50,000 people uncritically retweeted or liked the post.
But two different Twitter accounts with a close ear to the police scanner found what appeared to be the incident in question: It didn’t involve activists, but rather squeegee kids.
With questions being raised, the cardiologist, Andrea Natale, locked down his account and eventually deleted it. He’s since apologized, saying he overreacted out of concern for his daughter and that his words were “misinterpreted.”
The incident didn’t go down as Natale described, but it wasn’t a complete hoax, either.
Baltimore Police released body camera footage of the encounter to The Baltimore Sun. It shows a couple explaining to an officer that they declined to have their windshield washed. A male tells the officer that he jumped out of the car, and that three squeegee washers approached and surrounded him.
“I said, ‘I will defend myself, I do have a knife on me.' [One of the squeegee washers] said, ‘I have a knife too,’” the man tells the officer.
The couple tells the officer that the squeegee washers then started throwing rocks at them. The man asks what can be done about squeegee kids.
“To be honest, the city doesn’t want us to engage with squeegee boys,” an officer says. “It’s illegal to be in the street, but the city doesn’t want us to ... ” he says before trailing off.
The officer tells them to contact City Hall: “It’s crazy, it’s sad.” He never says it’s because the teens are Black, but instead because it’s a misdemeanor that he didn’t witness. He said he would try to locate them but that he wasn’t familiar with them.
The Scan the Police Twitter account relayed scanner radio information as the incident was happening Sunday afternoon, saying that a woman had called police to report that squeegee kids were throwing rocks at her car at Lombard and President streets. Once Natale’s tweet went viral, another Twitter user who archives scanner traffic linked the squeegee incident to Natale’s claim and posted a one-minute audio clip.
Such crowdsourced fact-checking may soon be harder to come by with Baltimore Police pushing forward on a plan to encrypt the police radio from the public.
As part of an upgrade of its radio systems, Baltimore Police are planning to encrypt scanner traffic and restrict it to “established media” that agree to adhere to certain guidelines, including not posting victim information. The radio upgrade has been in the works since a new contract was approved in December.
Attempts to reach Natale, the executive medical director at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center, were unsuccessful Tuesday. The Sun also attempted to reach his daughter for comment, without success.
The Sun was unable to identify the second man in the video who was riding with Natale’s daughter or reach him for comment.
St. David’s Medical Center released a statement from Natale, saying that he apologized for the tweet.
“I was worried about my daughter, and I jumped to conclusion based on the information I had at the time,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my entire professional career to healing people from all backgrounds, and I regret that my words were misinterpreted and created hurt and pain. It was not my intention.”