Was a High School Teen Shot After Police Mistook a Saxophone for a Machine Gun?

Reports of Alabama law enforcement shooting a saxophone-wielding teenager came from a fake news web site.

  • Published 27 August 2016


A high school boy was shot by a police officer who mistook his saxophone for a gun.



On 23 August 2016, the web site TMZworldstar (or TMZuncut) published an article reporting that a police officer (and Klan member) in Gary, Alabama shot a teenager named Jorevis Scruggs after mistaking his saxophone for a gun:

This seems to be all-too familiar, this week after Gary Alabama police officer member of The Grand Dragon of the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan mistook a black teenager’s saxophone for a machine gun while he walked to his bus stop this morning.

“It wasn’t even in the case”

The officer, identified as Officer Sam Gatling says the teen was holding the Saxophone in a manner that a person would hold an assault rifle and was asked repeatedly to put it down and refused to comply. He spoke with the press yesterday to address the allegations that the incident was fueled by racism. Gatling stated, he should have been dribbling a basketball.

The image actually came from April 2016 news coverage of a 15-year-old named Jorevis Scruggs, who was shot and killed by police in St. Louis, Missouri — but not while he was holding a saxophone, and not in Gary, Alabama (a city that, incidentally, doesn’t exist).

The saxophone shooting hoax was published by TMZworldstar/TMZuncut, sites related to the fake news outlet TMZWorldNews. All of the sites appropriated TMZ‘s name and included no disclaimer warning readers that its content was “satirical.” 

Previous fabrications from that cluster of sites included a similar claim that a cop shot a black baby after mistaking a pacifier for a gun, a story that a penile implant could alert women to cheating husbands and boyfriends, a tall tale about a college student left in a coma after participating in a social media semen-drinking challenge, a falsehood holding that KKK members committed suicide en masse over the Harriet Tubman $20 bill, news of a non-existent study revealing 80 percent of black men in Atlanta were gay, and claims police found a satanic dungeon under a Chuck E. Cheese.

Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes