By Spenser Hickey
Assistant Copy Editor
On Feb. 26, a celebrity arrived at Ohio State University – he went out to eat, got his photo taken with an Olympian and soon had many students asking to meet him.
What people either didn’t care about or perhaps even liked – but certainly knew, given the attention – was that this “celebrity” was wanted for alleged crimes including robbery (at the University of Connecticut); carjacking, robbery, and assault and battery (in Lee, Massachusetts); and aggravated assault and attempted sexual assault (in Morgantown, West Virginia).
This fugitive-turned-celebrity is Michael Moses Tarpeh, also known on Twitter as “Michael Boadi” and “Bigggggg Mike.”
Based on his tweets, he is still at large in Columbus. Even as he is on the run from U.S. Marshals, Tarpeh has remained active on Twitter; his tweets vary from shout-outs to fans, retweeting comments sent at him, taunting the police, and suggestions as to where he’s been and what he’s done.
“Who (sic) Credit cards am I stealing tonight?? #yolo,” he tweeted on Feb. 28, later asking “where’s the best party at? I’ll be there.”
His question got several responses, including one saying “Morrill Tower! We got all the drugs.”
After seeing this, the ridiculousness of the situation became real for me when I remembered my brother lives in Morrill Tower, and that someone had just invited a fugitive, wanted for several violent crimes, to come to his dorm.
Tarpeh, it seems, has become a Robin Hood of the OSU community – a thief, running around stealing at will, while many root him on. In this case, his supporters also seem to be those he robs – at least some wouldn’t care if he did.
One account specifically asked Tarpeh to come rob him, just so he’d be able to say he met him.
Only a very few, it seems, care that Tarpeh is a wanted fugitive; all most want to do is be able to say they’ve met the man, the legend, the “Bigggggg Mike.”
Not too long ago, the eyes of the news media were focused on California, as another fugitive charged with violent crimes eluded the law. Even the police were cautious during Christopher Dorner’s rampage – and rightly so. Why, then, is the situation taken so lightly?
Is it his nickname, with exactly 6 G’s? His use of social media, treating the whole thing as a joke? His seemingly effortless manner of eluding capture?
Tarpeh tweeted that a police officer stopped him and asked for ID,which he provided, saying he was wanted in four states.
The officer purportedly let him go thinking he was joking.
What about the situation leads college students to follow him on Twitter and try to contact him, even as federal, local and campus police urge them not to?
From Jesse James to John Dillinger, we as a society have had an admiration for the outlaw who takes on “the man” and gets away with it, for a while at least – they do the things many would like to but are too afraid to act on.
Has Michael Tarpeh become the next version of that, just combined with “The Hangover”-style hijinks?
Before he appeared at OSU, Tarpeh was spotted at the University of Connecticut, where he is believed to have stolen credit cards from sleeping students at an off-campus apartment.
Were it not for the police search, I probably would’ve believed that Tarpeh didn’t exist, and that all the incidents attributed to him were exaggerated tales of things multiple people did, that we were being duped.
But the police – in Columbus and Delaware, as well as Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut – think he’s real. It was the Public Safety email, warning us he may come here, that first led me to read about the situation.
I doubt he’ll be in Delaware anytime soon, as Columbus’ bars, stores and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic seem to have him occupied – not to mention OSU, where many look at him as a folk hero, a “true Buckeye,” as one student referred to him in a tweet saying he saw Tarpeh swimming naked with several women in Mirror Lake.
Tarpeh has said he’s not going anywhere, and it seems a lot of students are happy to keep him around, even as he tweets that he stole a credit card, or headphones, or car from them.
He also tweeted “Innocent till Proven Guilty! #BallSoHard” on Feb. 27, yet doesn’t seem to realize – or care – that online activity can be used as evidence.
If Tarpeh’s still in Columbus, I don’t know what his goal is, other than to build up as much fame and notoriety as he can before he’s arrested. If he’s just claiming to be in Columbus while racing for the border, though, it’s a pretty smart diversion.
His described actions are the epitome of “YOLO,” which he’s fond of tweeting, but neither Tarpeh nor his followers seem to realize that you can still go to jail for breaking the law.
A representative of the Marshals’ Service said they’d see the search through to the end, though, so I imagine he’ll find out soon enough.