Douglas Mackbee feared for his wife's safety. So he put out the call for attention, for help, asking his friends and the authorities to pay mind to what happened to his wife.
He got the attention and, if his latest version of events is accurate, he might still get that help. All it took was 1,700 Facebook shares, a horrifying story, and an unforgettable image to match.
Mackbee first posted the tale to Facebook on January 11, using a half-smiling photo of his bride, Charmaine, to illustrate the narrative. According to Mackbee, a case manager with Catholic Charities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Charmaine was driving home after dropping off their child, when she noticed a truck next to her was repeatedly honking its horn.
She tried to let the driver pass, Mackbee writes, but that wasn't the point.
"She sped up, he sped up," he wrote. "Then he swerved his vehicle into hers attempting to crash into her driver side and ultimately succeeding in running her off the road."
When the truck was past her, Charmaine saw the vague but undoubtedly threatening message it carried: A wooden board in the back of the truck said "NOW NIGGA."
Mackbee described the driver as a middle-aged white guy with a "long red beard," traveling with a younger, clean-shaven, passenger, also white. The motive for this attempted assault, Mackbee guesses, was "DWB [Driving While Black] and looking something like a Muslim." (Sometimes Charmaine has a "bad hair day" and wraps a scarf over her head.)
This post was enough to get attention on social media. Wednesday, Mackbee updated with a second post that set the local internet scene aflame. In it, he restates the story of his wife, and says several of his coworkers have seen the same vehicle, with the same message in the truck bed, driving around south Minneapolis. This post also added the detail that the truck had been "running up on the sidewalk attempting to run over black teenagers waiting on the bus stop."
And it came with a new photo: The truck with its wooden board and a visible license plate — 564 DEP — which ought to come in handy if police want to find the guy behind the wheel.
The post went viral on Facebook and Twitter, spreading within hours. By Thursday night, Mackbee gave friends an update, the first positive post on his page in some time. Since alerting the public, he'd been "connected with downtown [Minneapolis Police Department] headquarters," and had arranged to meet with investigators.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder confirmed that a police report had been filed, and that an active case had been turned over to investigators.
"We're in the infancy of the investigation," Elder said. "We'll continue to plow through it."
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