Sulahaddin Barhoum was in the crowd on Boylston Street watching the Boston Marathon went the bombs went off, and was, thankfully, unhurt. But he suffered a different kind of trauma two days later when friends started calling him, telling the 17-year-old that his picture was all over the Internet. As a possible suspect in the bombings.
Um … what? Oh, you just got Richard Jewelled!
“I was terrified, I have never been in trouble and I feared for my security,” Barhoum told the London Daily Mail. The lad wasn’t kidding: in reality he’s a high school student who has, in fact, never been in any serious trouble. He’s on his school’s track team, and was there with his running coach to watch the Marathon.
But Barhoum made two mistakes: being brown-skinned (he’s from Morocco, having moved to the U.S. with his parents four years ago), and wearing a backpack. This made him a person of interest to several Internet sleuths, who picked him out from hundreds of race-day photos and circled him as a possible suspect. The photos circulated like mad. (One of them is below. It’s blurred, nut other versions are not).
And it wasn’t just social media vigilantes to blame. More horrifically, the New York Post got involved. Really, NY Post? “Bag men”?
“At 1.30am I called a friend to take me to the state police – I walked in to the lobby and told them I thought I was wanted by the FBI,” Barhoum said. “They didn’t know what to make of it.
“I had my papers with me and I gave them my social security number so they could check me out. They didn’t even take me into a private room. They made some calls, then said I was free to go. I was there about 25 minutes but I was very frightened. I still am – my photograph is all over the internet and I worry that someone, a mad person, might come after me and my family.”
Barhoum has two younger sisters and a 15-year-old brother, said the Daily Mail, and is fearful for their safety. He has a right to be. CNN and Fox News loudly declaring on Wednesday that a “dark-skinned” suspect had been arrested (buzzer … false), so there’s no telling what kind of vigilante violence might break out of he’s recognized. Oh wait, yes there is. My advice: don’t go near the Bronx Applebee’s for awhile if you look even vaguely Middle Eastern.
Look Internet types, can we just chill? If you have something you might think is evidence, just give it to the police. Quit scaring innocent kids. Yeah, we’re looking at you, Reddit.
Photos: Daily Mail.