British police identify thief - and it's not David Schwimmer

On Oct 25, Blackpool Police took to social media to confirm they had identified the man in the footage (left) who resembled actor David Schwimmer from the popular sitcom Friends. PHOTOS: TWITTER/ @BLACKPOOLPOLICE, @DAVIDSCHWIMMER

LONDON (WASHINGTON POST) - Some would say it hasn't been David Schwimmer's day, his week, his month, or even his year.

Over a decade on from bidding goodbye to his much-loved Friends character Ross Geller, the actor found himself at the centre of a social media firestorm this week after being closely linked to a crime on British soil.

"Do you recognise this man?" Blackpool Police asked on Tuesday (Oct 23) on social media. "We want to speak to him in relation to a theft at a Blackpool restaurant on the 20th September," the post read.

The straightforward question was quickly answered by thousands of people who were quickly able to identify the man in question.

To them, it was simple, the suspect was clearly Ross Geller. While some speculated that the getaway driver was "stuck in second gear", others spared a thought for fellow series characters Rachel and Monica, who most definitely wouldn't be impressed at accident-prone Ross's latest gaffe.

"The One Where Ross Became a Thief," wrote one fan, much to the delight of thousands, giving the event its own title in the style of the hit show.

Declared by some as "Facebook post of the year", the replies were a special kind of comedy gold. By Wednesday, the appeal had racked up over 79,000 shares and more than 120,000 comments - with the news eventually reaching Schwimmer.

The man in question, who was caught on camera clutching what appears to be a case of beer, is wanted in connection with a theft that took place at a restaurant last month.

On Thursday, Blackpool Police took to social media to confirm they had identified the man in the footage. The man has not yet been arrested.

"Could we BE any more overwhelmed with the response to our CCTV appeal after a theft at a restaurant in Blackpool? Most importantly, we're now satisfied we've identified the man in the still & our inquiries are very much continuing. Huge thanks for sharing it with your Friends," Blackpool Police wrote on Twitter.

On Friday, Inspector David Wilson from Blackpool Police said: "We would like to thank the public for the huge response we have received from this appeal thanks to the man in the image resembling a well-known actor from the popular sitcom Friends.

"We can see the humorous side to this but equally for us, there is a policing purpose to these kinds of appeals on social media and in this case, it's to help us find the man pictured, and seek justice for the victim.

"We have been overwhelmed with tens of thousands of comments on our Facebook appeal and some of these have given us positive lines of inquiry which we are currently looking into. "If you have any information that could assist us, please get in touch."

Schwimmer playfully took to his personal social media accounts on Wednesday to deny any involvement with the crime, writing: "Officers, I swear it wasn't me. ... I was in New York. To the hardworking Blackpool Police, good luck with the investigation.#itwasntme"

While many comments were centred on Ross's most iconic scenes, some people couldn't resist recalling their all-time favourite Friends moments.

One user, channelling another character, the often-inarticulate Joey Tribbiani, wrote: "Guys this is serious... it was a robbery based on giving and receiving as well as having and sharing. And the stolen items that they give and have is shared and received. And through this having and giving and sharing and receiving, we too can share and love and have... and receive."

"Please approach with caution. He is known to have studied Karate and we believe he has mastered the art of Unagi, the state of total awareness," wrote another, referencing the popular episode where Ross makes some questionable comments on sushi and self-defence.

This is not the first time a police appeal for information on social media has taken an unexpected turn. In 2015, the Kent police force in England was mocked after sharing a sketch of a wanted suspect who bore a striking resemblance to Fred Flintstone. "Yabba-dabba don't approach," read one warning from the time.

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