Call it a lesson in the power of Twitter.
Respected film director Spike Lee was one of many Twitter users who retweeted the wrong address of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin in February.
Since the case has made national headlines, Lee has expressed his support of the Martin family and has called for justice to be served with several Twitter messages.
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Lee got wind of Zimmerman’s purported address last Friday after Marcus Davonne Higgins, a 33-year-old Los Angeles man who uses the online handle “maccapone,” tweeted it to Lee and several other celebrities including Will Smith, 50 Cent and Lebron James, according to a Smoking Gun report.
However, the address of an Edgewater Circle property that Higgins disseminated actually is the residence of David and Elaine McClain, a couple in their 70s whose home is about four miles from where Martin was shot, according to an MSNBC report.
The error has caused the couple to fear for their safety.
They have received mail that references the Martin case including an envelope etched with the words: “Taste the Rainbow.” (That is the slogan for Skittles, the candy Martin had on him when he was discovered shot.)
They have even moved temporarily from their home.
Elaine McClain told ClickOrlando.com that the only have one thing in common with Martin’s shooter.
“My youngest son, his last name is Zimmerman and his middle name is George.”
An old voter registration record shows that William George Zimmerman is connected to that Edgewater Circle property. McClain said her former married name was Zimmerman but that she’s not related to the Zimmerman who shot Martin.
The man who shot Martin is George Michael Zimmerman.
As for Lee, she added:
“He definitely owes a big apology. All this is really scary and it’s a shame. There’s no reason they put our address out there without checking to see who lived there.”
Lee has more than 250,000 Twitter followers. The mistake is a reminder that in the rush to disseminate information, it’s equally important to share news that is factually correct.
In this case, Higgins, Lee and whoever else retweeted the incorrect address may indeed be at fault for rushing to judgment.
Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog VeryArtistical.com.