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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The mugshot of a convicted felon arrested in California went viral on a police Facebook page this week, making him an instant celebrity with Web users who have called him "handsome" and clicked "like" on his picture more than 64,000 times.
Jeremy Meeks, 30, was arrested on Wednesday in a gang crackdown in a crime-ridden area of Stockton, in Northern California, according to Stockton police spokesman Joey Silva.
"Unfortunately, this photograph has now become the most liked or most active photo on Stockton Police Department's Facebook since we started on Facebook in March 2012,” Silva said.
The image - light blue eyes, with a tattoo of a tear under one, chiseled cheekbones, hint of stubble and head tilted to one side - made a quick and powerful impression on Facebook users.
"I hope no one who knows me. Sees this!! But. He is too cute," Facebook user Emilee Gourd wrote on the website, adding three heart emoticons to her post.
Other Facebook users, among the over 18,000 who commented on the mugshot, called Meeks handsome, sexy and dreamy, and many suggested Meeks, who is held on bail of $900,000, should turn from a life of crime to modeling.
Not content to simply suggest that career choice, one creative Web user made Meeks into a kind of virtual model, superimposing his face from the mugshot onto a Calvin Klein advertisement and removing his tattoos.
Meeks was arrested on gang and weapon charges after police in Stockton, east of San Francisco, stopped him in a car and found he had a gun that he, as a convicted felon, is not legally allowed to possess, Silva said.
He was taken into custody with three other men as police fanned out across the Weston Ranch area of Stockton reacting to a spike in robberies and shootings, and gang activity, Silva said.
Meeks, in a jailhouse interview with Sacramento television station KXTV, said he used to be a gang member but is not anymore and that did not know about his Internet popularity until a reporter told him.
"I appreciate that (popularity) but I just really want them to know that this is really not me, I'm not some kingpin," Meeks told KXTV.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson