Rutland assault investigation fueled by Facebook - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland assault investigation fueled by Facebook

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RUTLAND, Vt. -

"It's very frustrating," Misti Baker said. "We've traveled these roads for hours and hours. I don't think there is a road in Rutland that we haven't been down."

Baker says it's been 13 days since her son was attacked on Seabury Street. Police say on Sept. 11, the 14-year-old boy was assaulted behind the Rutland Intermediate School. Misti Baker got a phone call from the hospital.

"He said, 'You need to get to the hospital, your son has been attacked by a 30-year-old man and he's in the emergency room," Baker said.

With no arrests, Baker says she took to social media looking for help. She posted a description of the attack and the potential suspect. Within days, she says the incident went viral. At last check, she says her posts had reached more than 10,000 people.

"Who better to ask? I mean these people that are on Facebook, they are out every day. They see things, they hear things. This is Rutland, Rutland is small and people love to talk," Baker said.

But for Rutland City Police, they say the social media attention may have implications for the investigation.

"But I will say in this case, there are some very irresponsible posts out there from individuals who have put stuff that they have posted in a public domain that factually is not true. And it doesn't help us as investigators," Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said.

Chief Baker says they should have issued a press release earlier, and he understands why people had concerns. But the investigation is very much active, so they cannot possibly answer every question people have.

"They want more information than we can give them. And we can't comment on certain things that are said, as a result of postings on Facebook," Chief Baker said.

Elaine Young, a professor at Champlain College, says police departments used to be able to control their message with designated press conferences and only releasing certain information. But social media has changed that, and a balance must be formed.

"If it's someone in your family that's hurt, you want to take an action," Young said. "Social media allows people to actually start feeling like they can do something. We want to fix it; we want to take an action in some way."

Exactly what this mother did as she searches for answers about what happened to her son.

"He still gets nervous when he walks," Misti Baker said. "You'll see him look around a lot. He's always looking behind him."

Chief Baker says they are actively pursuing many leads and questioning potential suspects. He says these types of investigations take time and he urges the community to understand that.

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