On 16 August 2017, Joshua Witt, 26, posted on his personal Facebook page a photograph of a bloody wound on his left hand, which he alleged was the result of being attacked by a man with a pocket knife who assumed he was a neo-Nazi. Since sharing his story with his Facebook friends, the post has gone viral and his story has become the subject of several blog posts and news stories.
Witt said on Facebook he was getting out of his car at a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant in Sheridan, Colorado, when a man approached and asked him if he a neo-Nazi while simultaneously swinging a small blade at him. Witt said he threw his hands up in response, which blocked the weapon from hitting his head but resulted in a laceration to his hand that required three stitches. Witt reported the incident to police and described the attacker as an African-American man who ran toward a nearby bike path inhabited, known to be inhabited by transient people. On his Facebook pager, Witt wrote:
Sooooooo apparently I look like a neo-nazi and got stabbed for it … luckily I put my hands up to stop it so he only stabbed my hand…. please keep in mind there was no conversation between me and this dude I was literally just getting out of my car …
So I went to get a shake after the chiropractor and as I got out of my car all I hear is “you one of them neo-nazi?” As the dude was swinging a small pocket knife over my car door …. then he took off running and I was just sitting there in shock like what the heck dude
I have no tattoos that would indicate anything like that. There is nothing on the car that I am aware of that might suggest it. My head is not shaved
However, on 28 August 2017, Sheridan police reported that Witt had not in fact been attacked, but had in fact purchased a small knife at a sporting goods store, which he accidentally cut himself with. He subsequently called police to the parking lot and fabricated a story about being attacked. In a statement to the media, Sheridan police Chief Mark Campbell said:
Sheridan Police became suspicious of his story for various reasons which included the following:
Video surveillance in the area did not show anyone running from the scene of the attack as Witt claimed.
Sheridan Police detectives located a person who matched the description provide by Mr. Witt. This person who is a transient and lives in the area was cleared as a possible suspect.
Based on the above facts and new information learned from Witt in his interview Sheridan Police reviewed video from a nearby sporting goods store. That video revealed the following additional information:
Store video showed Mr. Witt shopping in the store minutes before the alleged attack. Store video showed Mr. Witt purchasing a small knife in the store.
On August 24, 2017 Sheridan Police, re-interviewed Mr. Witt. Where he was confronted with all the information listed above. Mr. Witt subsequently admitted to accidentally cutting himself with the knife while parked in his car in front of the sporting goods store and admitted making up the story about being attacked.
In the days since Witt wrote the post, it had been shared thousands of times and became the subject of sensationalized reports claiming the person who attacked him was an “anti-fascist” or “antifa,” often masked, black-clad far-left activists that have gained notoriety in recent months for violently opposing white supremacist rallies in places like Berkeley, California. For example, Breitbart.com reported:
Joshua Witt, 26, was leaving his car to enter a Steak ’n Shake in Sheridan, Colorado, and claims his long-on-top, buzzed-on-the-sides haircut was the reason for the stabbing as a confused anti-fascist accused him of being a neo-Nazi.
Fox News reported a similar story. As of 28 August 2017, both stories are still live on those respective web sites. However, no one from “antifa” attacked Witt, and the man he claimed attacked him was cleared of wrongdoing by police.
This is hardly the first time a hoax gained popularity by blaming violent attacks on members of the black community. In early March 2017, Breana Harmon Talbott, an 18-year-old Texas woman, was arrested for filing a false report claiming she had been abducted and sexually assaulted by three black men. In 2015 a Texarkana woman used make-up to mimic injuries and falsely claimed on social media she was attacked at a Wal-Mart by three black people.
If convicted, Witt could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,650 for falsifying a police report.
- Sheridan police reported that Witt was arrested for filing a false police report.
Kew, Ben. “Stabbing Victim Claims Short Haircut Meant Attacker Believed He Was a Neo-Nazi.”
Breitbart.com. 20 August 2017.
Pagones, Stephanie. “Man Stabbed After Haircut Gets Him Mistaken for a Neo-Nazi.”
New York Post. 19 August 2017.
McGhee, Tom. “Denver-Area Police Seek Suspect After Man Reports Stabbing By Someone Who Thought He Was a ‘Neo-Nazi.'”
Denver Post. 21 August 2017.
Prakash, Nidhi. “This Man Says He Was Mistaken For a Neo-Nazi and Stabbed.”
BuzzFeed News. 20 August 2017.
Beinart, Peter. “What Trump Gets Wrong About Antifa.”
The Atlantic. 16 August 2017.