By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina police chief has come under fire after he suggested that a man who took to Facebook to criticize the department's law enforcement tactics might be a criminal.
"Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal," interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago in Columbia, South Carolina posted in response to a man who had complained that police should concentrate on violent offenders instead of arresting marijuana users.
"We will work on finding you," Santiago added.
The chief's comment was quickly deleted, but citizens responded over the weekend and into Monday with a flood of angry comments directed at him.
"I'm smoking weed as we speak!" one person posted. "Come find me...Disregard the murderers and rapists, us pot smokers are the real threat."
Santiago told The State newspaper he had posted his reply late at night while watching television. He later sent an apology to the first man and said he has since learned a lesson in what not to say on Facebook.
Columbia police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said the chief's comments were misconstrued.
"Chief was trying to say that he puts would-be criminals on notice," Timmons said in an email on Monday. "The man who was so-called threatened openly admitted that he was not offended."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Gevirtz)