Yesterday, a story began circulating on social media about a cosplayer at San Diego Comic Con who was in the hospital after being discovered on the side of the road, bloody and unconscious. The story was reported on a few blogs, most notably Graphic Policy and The Beat, mainly citing a Tumblr post calling for information about the incident and quoting a plea for help from a parent of the girl in question. Here's the Tumblr post, with names removed because the girl is a minor and deserves (and is legally entitled to) her privacy:
One of my dearest friends was found on the side of the road, unconscious and bloody. She was wearing this cosplay on the day it happened. She was last seen with friends when she ran off after a disagreement. Please, please, please, if you have ANY information or saw her anywhere, contact her mother. The full information is down below. This isn’t okay and it’s sickening to know that this happened at a place people truly can enjoy themselves. Please spread the word.
”I just received a call from the San Diego Police Department and my daughter REDACTED aka REDACTED was found on the side of the road covered in blood with no ID unconscious. They are unsure what happened to her. My husband is on his way to the police station and then the hospital. If you have any information on what happened to her please send me a facebook message or call me at REDACTED. Thank you in advance”. -REDACTED
The coverage of this story was widespread, and yet scarce on details. Thanks to the contact information in that original message, repeated and linked to in blogs and tweets, anyone interested could easily read the cosplayer's Facebook page and the pages of both her parents, but very few details about what actually happened were available. Some of the blogs and tweets (many from some big names), while of course well-meaning, included pictures and the real name of this girl, though it should be noted that The Beat's article redacted all names and images from the start. Discussions included a lot of back and forth on whether this was "a hoax," with confused attempts to contact first the San Diego Police Department and then the San Diego Harbor Police, both of whom, at first, claimed no knowledge of the incident.
I understand the desire to give this story a signal boost. Coming off the high of a very long weekend of celebrating comics and geek culture, to have a member of our community attacked in such a senseless, violent way is shocking. It makes you want to do something - anything - to help, and the angle of the story seemed to be "help the police find information on this attack." As i turns out, they already had a suspect in custody.
The San Diego Harbor Police sent out a press release last night to the blogs inquiring about the incident:
Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27th in a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 am on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of minor. The victim, a juvenile female, was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit is handling the incident. This investigation is ongoing.
I can imagine how you feel right now, reading this. Furious. Depressed. Shocked. Confused. Disappointed. I wish I could offer you something to make that better in some way, but I can't. I feel the same way you do. None of that, however, can possibly compare to the way this girl and her family must feel. The all-too-personal narrative I read earlier while investigating are stuck in my mind. A young woman excited to be going to Comic Con, posting pictures of her costume. Proud parents directing friends and family to check out their daughter's public cosplay page. And then this.
If we learn of a way that we can direct our readers to help without invading this family's privacy any further, we'll let you know. Until then, just be kind to your fellow geeks, and to all people.
UPDATE: There has been an update on this story from the police. The injuries to the cosplayer are now suspected to be from a fall, though this does not affect the charges against the man. Read more about it here.