Was Isaiah Jackson Arrested After Pic Showed Man Kneeling on Toddler?

The photograph, whose caption made reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, prompted an outraged response in July 2020.

  • Published 27 July 2020

Claim

Isaiah Anthony Wayne Jackson of Springfield, Ohio, was arrested in connection with a widely shared photograph of a man kneeling on a toddler's neck along with the caption "BLM now mf."

Rating

What's True

Clark County Sheriff's Department officers arrested Jackson on July 21, after their investigation into the photograph resulted in their identifying him as the man shown kneeling on the toddler's neck.

What's False

Technically, Jackson was arrested on the basis of an alleged parole violation connected to a different case.

Origin

In July 2020, readers asked us to examine the accuracy of news articles that claimed 20-year-old Ohio man Isaiah Jackson had been arrested in connection with a photograph, shared widely online, which showed a Black man kneeling on a white toddler’s neck, along with the caption “BLM now mf.”

On July 23, the New York Post published an article with the headline “Ohio Man Seen Kneeling on 2-Year-Old Boy’s Neck Arrested.” The article reported that:

“An Ohio man seen kneeling on the neck of a 2-year-old boy on social media has been arrested, authorities said Thursday. Isaiah Jackson, 20, was booked into jail on a probation violation after the Clark County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation Tuesday into the photo, which depicts a man with his knee on the back of a white child neck’s along with a caption, ‘Blm now mf.’ A second person is also seen behind the child holding the youngster’s hands behind his back.”

Similar articles were published by the Washington Times and local news channels WHIO and WKEF/WRGT

The core claim in those reports — that Jackson was identified by police as the man in the photograph, and that he had been arrested in connection with it — was accurate. However, technically speaking, police arrested Jackson on the basis of an alleged unrelated parole violation, though they sought him out and located him during their investigation into the photograph, and prosecutors are now using his period of detention to compile charges connected to the photograph. 

Analysis

Internet users began sharing the photograph on July 21. It appears to have originally been posted to an unidentified Snapchat account. The image shows a man posing for the camera while kneeling on the back of the neck of a toddler who appears to be crying and is lying face down while a second adult holds the toddler’s hands behind his back. At the bottom of the photograph, a banner caption reads “Blm now mf” (“Black Lives Matter now, motherfucker.”) The photograph may be disturbing to some readers, but it can be viewed here

On July 23, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office announced in a statement that its investigations into the photograph had led them to identify 20-year-old Isaiah Jackson as the man seen kneeling on the toddler, and that he had been arrested on the basis of an outstanding parole detainer, meaning he was alleged to have violated the conditions of his parole in relation to a separate case. The statement read:

On July 21, 2020, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of a posting on social media displaying a photo of an adult male in a kneeling position, with one knee on the neck of a 2 year old child. Appended to the photo was a ‘banner’ containing language that indicated that the image was related to ongoing racially-oriented protests and other activity taking place in various cities around the nation.

Two divisions of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office immediately began an investigation to determine the location of the incident and the identities of the individuals involved. Patrol units were able to determine the location where the incident took place, and were able to make contact with both the mother and the child, as well as the male subject seen kneeling in the image. The male was determined to have a Parole Authority holder from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and he was taken immediately into custody and incarcerated in the Clark County Jail.

The child was taken to the local hospital for examination, where he was found to have no injuries related to the incident. Subsequent interview with the mother revealed that she was unaware of the photo having been taken, or its contents, until she had been informed by other parties while the Sheriff’s Office was en route to her home to begin the investigation into this incident.

Detectives continue to investigate, and are continuing to compile evidence related to several other persons who were directly involved. The Investigations Bureau of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office has prepared the case against the male subject shown in the photo, Isaiah Jackson, 20, and is awaiting the Office of the County Prosecutor to provide a determination on the scope and breadth of the felony charges that will be supported by that office for presentation in court.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office records showed that Jackson was arrested at 10:50 a.m. on July 21 and booked into the county jail some 15 minutes later. Those records indicated that he was arrested on the basis of a probation violation but it was, in fact, an alleged parole violation, according to the Sheriff’s Department’s news release. As of July 27, Jackson was still incarcerated in the county jail. 

On July 27, Acting Clark County Prosecutor Daniel Driscoll told Snopes that charges had not yet been filed against Jackson, but that his office was using the period of his detention to conduct a careful investigation into the incident shown in the photograph, with a view to charging him in connection with it.

It’s unclear what the nature of Jackson’s alleged parole violation was, or what conviction it related to. However, Clark County Court of Common Pleas records show that in January 2019, Jackson pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree felony burglary and first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence. He was sentenced to six months in prison on the domestic violence charge, to be served concurrently with an 18-month sentence on the burglary charge, with credit for time already served.

According to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records, Jackson was released from the Madison Correctional Institution on May 17, 2020, but placed under Adult Parole Authority supervision for a period of three years. Snopes asked the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for the details surrounding the alleged parole violation that prompted Jackson’s arrest in Clark County, and we will update this fact check if and when we receive a response.

Jackson’s domestic violence conviction related to an incident in September 2018 in which he was found to have deliberately rammed his truck into a car he knew was being driven by a woman with whom he has a daughter in common. The arresting officer in the case testified that the woman had said Jackson was “becoming [increasingly] aggressive and violent with her, threatening her and her family.”

The photograph and Jackson’s arrest quickly became the subject of intensive, racially tinged outrage and discussion because the caption that accompanied the photograph mentioned the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and due to the perceived racial dynamics at play (Jackson’s race was listed as “Black” in Clark County Sheriff’s Department records, and the toddler was widely described as being white, although we could not verify that claim).

However, it’s unknown whether the pose was intended as an earnest gesture of anti-white bias or antipathy on Jackson’s part, as opposed to a distasteful attempt at humor. Our examination of a Facebook profile that appears to belong to Jackson did not reveal further evidence of racial antipathy on his part.

Despite a rush, from some quarters, to condemn the Black Lives Matter movement by association with Jackson, our research did not uncover evidence of any earnest involvement in, or even commentary on, the broader Black Lives Matter movement, racial injustice or police brutality, on the part of Jackson. It’s unclear whether Jackson, or someone else, posted the photograph to Snapchat, and therefore whether the “Blm now mf” caption was Jackson’s own creation.

It should also be noted that some social media users in 2020 were observed to have taken part in a trend, albeit one of limited popularity, in which, as part of a distasteful and disturbing collective joke, they reenacted the arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. In that incident, police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the back of Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, despite the pleas of Floyd and onlookers. Two autopsies concluded that Chauvin’s actions led to Floyd’s death, which sparked renewed nationwide and international protests against police brutality and racial injustice led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s possible that Jackson’s pose in the photograph, and/or the Black Lives Matter reference in the caption, were distasteful but ironic allusions to the death of Floyd, or subsequent social media trends related to Floyd’s death. 

Conclusion

Jackson has not been charged, tried, or convicted in relation to the photograph, but various news articles accurately reported that police in Clark County, Ohio, had identified him as the man shown kneeling on a 2-year-old boy’s neck and had arrested him. Technically, Jackson was arrested on the basis of an Ohio Adult Parole Authority detainer, but that detainer was discovered by local police after their investigations into the photograph directed them towards Jackson. The claim is therefore “Mostly True.”