Petersen’s supporters have launched a Facebook page, “Free Stephen Petersen” that is promoting a fundraising event next week, and they launched a crowd sourcing GoFundMe page to raise money for Petersen’s legal defense, although they reported on the Facebook page earlier today that the campaign was removed, possibly due to references to the Alameda police and fire departments.
Action Alameda News asked Lt. Jill Ottaviano, the public information officer for the Alameda Police Department, to confirm that investigators had identified an eye witness who fingered Petersen for the fires, as reported by KTVU Channel 2 news on Tuesday, said to be sourced from court documents.
Ottaviano responded, “as you know I can’t share with you details of the investigation. Having said that, I can tell you that our officers are objective fact-finders who will follow-up every lead in this case. We are not taking sides, but rather documenting facts. I appreciate that Mr. Petersen has support. I ask that you let the case unfold. If there is something pertinent to the case I can share with you I will contact you.”
Separately, the National Research Council released a new report today called “Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification (2014),” which, according to the Council, “recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate.”
In a press release announcing the report, the Council wrote, “science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications.”
So far, 51 people have indicated on the Petersen Facebook page that they are going to the fundraiser next week.