The day after Thanksgiving 2019, residents of Chippewa Township, Pennsylvania, watched from their windows as state and local police combed through their backyards looking for Kyle Michael Jones.
Jones, 26, had a long rap sheet for offenses like reckless driving and disorderly conduct. He had responded to an officer’s attempted traffic stop by jumping out of his car and making a run for it.
Information about Jones wouldn’t be public for days, so as helicopters flew overhead and police dogs searched the surrounding woods, residents logged on to Facebook. And that’s when the fear, and the exaggerations, and the falsehoods begin to circulate and multiply.
“Word is he escaped from Detroit where he killed someone,” a woman offered in The News Alerts of Beaver County, a public Facebook group where 43,000 members — roughly a quarter of the county population — post and comment on local news from potholes and closing businesses to lost dogs and suspected criminals on the loose.