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The officer, identified as Sgt. Matt Patten, was assisting with the vice president’s visit to Florida on Friday, along with the Broward Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. He was photographed wearing a large red patch with a black “Q” displayed prominently on his vest.
“Grateful for the courageous members of law enforcement who helped with my visit to Florida this afternoon. Thank you for everything you do to keep our communities SAFE. Great to meet you,” the vice president’s account originally tweeted, along with several photos of Pence and the law enforcement officers providing security for his visit.
According to BuzzFeed, which first reported the story, the vice president’s account took down the post shortly after they reached out for comment. The post was later restored, with photos including Patten cropped so as not to show him.
Grateful for the courageous members of law enforcement who helped with my visit to Florida this afternoon. Thank you for everything you do to help keep our communities SAFE. Great to meet you! pic.twitter.com/Lh9Udk5fr2— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) December 1, 2018
Pence’s office told BuzzFeed that the tweet was altered so as not to spread the conspiracy theory.
QAnon is the conspiracy theory that started on 4chan a year ago, centered around a mysterious figure called “Q,” so named for his supposed high-level government security clearance. Among other things, followers of the theory believe that many prominent Democrats are involved in a child sex ring and that Trump is going to put all of them in prison.
The Miami New Times reported that the Broward Sheriff’s Office didn’t know Patten was wearing the patch when he was sent to greet Pence.
“The patch is not authorized by BSO. This matter will be addressed immediately,” spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright told the New Times via email.
While the vice president’s office and the Broward Sheriff’s Office may have been appalled, QAnon believers jumped on the moment in the spotlight.
Why would VP Mike Pence tweet out a photo of himself with law enforcement that had a Q on his chest, then delete the tweet?— Declassify FISA (@NinerNabs49) December 1, 2018
"The picture will be the signifier, the signifier will force the Q."#QAnon #WWG1WGA pic.twitter.com/fStUzynUTW
16. MSM went hysterical over #QAnon when @VP tweeted thanks to his LE supporters, when one of the Sheriffs had a #Q - "Question the Narrative" patch. Pence deleted it. https://t.co/qS1cwjt6H2 …#WWG1WGA!!— DocRock1007 🇺🇸 (@DocRock1007) December 1, 2018
It is spreading. pic.twitter.com/WE3rr7yw0a
Patten has reportedly served as a law enforcement official for 27 years, with a stint in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office of Homeland Security.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.