In the chaos of Thursday night’s cop shootings, Dallas police tweeted a photo of a “suspect” who immediately became the most wanted man in America.
He was a black man, wearing a camouflauge hoodie and a gun strapped to his shoulder.
The photo quickly pingponged across TV screens and around social media.
The man in the picture was Mark Hughes, who attended what had begun as a peaceful protest over the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
That photo was not the only one someone took of him Thursday night.
A man from a Midwestern state took pictures of Hughes, too, because, he told CNN in a phone interview, he thought it odd that Hughes was openly carrying a gun. The man told CNN that he shared his photos with police.
Police handed out Hughes’ photo at a press conference where Dallas police chief David Brown called him a “person of interest” but did not name him.
“We wanted to show a person of interest, who witnesses at the scene say was involved in this shooting in some way,” said Brown.
“So if anyone knows or recognizes this picture, please, immediately call 911. Do not approach this suspect. We’ll bring him to justice.”
But within minutes, Twitter began to pass around evidence - contrary to what was being said on cable TV and by the police - that Hughes couldn’t possibly be one of the shooters police were looking for.
In fact, Hughes later revealed that while police were circulating his picture like a wanted poster he was “laughing and joking with police officers” on the street.
A video that clearly showed Hughes on the street with the crowd after shots were fired started making the rounds on Twitter.
Then Twitter users started tweeting an interview Hughes’ brother, Cory, one of the protest organizers, and some of his friends gave to local media, saying Hughes had nothing to do with the carnage and that the gun he was carrying wasn’t even loaded.
“Mark Hughes is not the suspect,” Cory told reporters. “He was simply exercising his right. He never thought by exercising his right he was gonna be plastered all over the national news as a suspect.”
Cory said that after the shootings began he told Mark to give his gun to police.
“My brother was marching with us,” he said. “And because he is my brother and I understood the severity of the situation, my first instinct was to tell him: ‘Give that gun away.’”
A video of Hughes turning his gun over to a policeman at the scene began making the rounds, too.
“Many of those following events online, though, noted that this information had not filtered into mainstream TV reports on the shooting,” noted The Verge, which detailed how social media helped exonerate Hughes before the police and cable TV did.
Twitter got angry on Hughes’ behalf and worried for his safety. Hughes said later that he received death threats from around the world.
In an interview with local media early Friday morning Hughes said police “interrogated” him for 30 minutes.
“Now you all have my face on national news, are you all going to come out and say this young man had nothing to do with it?” he wanted to know.
“All I know at the end of the day is ... it was persecution on me, unrightly, and I feel they need to do something about this.”