In early May 2017, far-right blog FreedomDaily.com posted a story with a misleading headline reporting that Rochester, Minnesota police had raided an Olive Garden restaurant "where Obama’s Muslim refugees were", only to make a"DISTURBING find inside":
The Olive Garden is arguably one of America’s most beloved restaurant chains for their delicious dishes and comfortable family environment. However, when Barack Obama’s Muslim refugees take over one of these eateries, it becomes the last place you ever want to be caught dining, and probably make you hate pasta for the rest of your life. This is especially the case at one popular location that became customers’ worst nightmare after cops raided it and made a disturbing find inside. ...
Although there were three Muslim men who participated in the brutal lunch hour exchange of gunfire, one two have been caught and charged. The third got away with it and is likely being harbored by fellow refugees until the urge to kill strikes again — which is only a matter of time.
Rochester police Capt. John Sherwin told us by phone that authorities never raided an Olive Garden restaurant. Instead, they arrested two men, Abdi Omar Abukar, 21, and Idris Abdillahi Haji-Mohamed, 22, who are suspected of shooting at a third person while running through a parking lot shared by an Olive Garden in Rochester.
Police believe the chase started at a nearby apartment complex.Sherwin said the immigration status of the men is not known and police do not have enough information on the third person to have a description of his ethnic background, telling us:
That article is fake. That information is not coming from local law enforcement or any information that has been given out regarding this case. There are assumptions being made about many things based on names [of the suspects]. We did not raid the Olive Garden — however, it is lunch time and I’m thinking about getting some bread sticks now.
Sherwin referred us to an article in the local newspaper, the Post-Bulletin, for an accurate representation of the incident. According to the paper, the shooting took place on 2 May 2017, and Akubar had a previous criminal history:
Abukar pleaded guilty April 3 in Olmsted County District Court to one of two identical felony counts of third-degree drug sale. He had posted $40,000 conditional bail in March, which was allowed to remain in place after his guilty plea. He's scheduled to be sentenced in the case May 24.
Less than two weeks after that plea, local law enforcement developed information that Abukar again was selling crack cocaine, court documents show. An undercover drug buy confirmed the crime, the document says, and a warrant for his arrest was issued April 26.
Abukar turned himself in Monday and that day appeared before visiting judge Dennis J. Murphy on one count each of second-degree drug sale and third-degree drug possession, both felonies. Murphy set conditional bail at $20,000, which Abukar posted immediately.
The next day, authorities received multiple 911 calls about 12:50 p.m., reporting shots fired in a parking lot at Minnwest Bank, 331 16th Ave. NW.
Several witnesses gave similar stories, describing two men chasing another man, firing guns as they ran.
No information regarding the nation of origin of the two suspects has been released to the public, but local news media reports say both men are originally from Rochester. Authorities have little information on the person who the two are suspected of chasing and firing on, and do not believe that person is being "harbored by fellow refugees". Further, police did not "raid" an Olive Garden restaurant, nor did the incident occur at Olive Garden; the three men were simply seen running through a shared commercial parking lot.
Sherwin told us that because Rochester has a large Somali population, it's not the first time the community has been the subject of a fake news item that appears to deliberately stir up fear about immigrants. The FreedomDaily.com article appears to have manipulated a local crime story to fit an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narrative.