A young couple from Arizona, who apparently decided to pull up stakes and move to Chicago, sparked derision after claiming in a viral YouTube video that they left just one day after their arrival after being assaulted by a "sketchy" man near a transit station.
The couple, Jaelin and Brianna White, claim their occupations are house flipper and maker of YouTube videos, respectively.
According to the Chicagoist, their video ("Our Chicago Story") was posted to Reddit, where it quickly went viral. As of 6 September 2016, it has been viewed nearly 1.6 million times. It has received so much negative attention that a local comedian, Kevin Fergus, has scheduled a satirical "Brianna and Jaelin Walking Tour" for 6 September 2016, visiting the "landmarks" mentioned by the couple.
Many of the key claims made in the video, however, are vague and difficult to verify. They posted the video on 2 August 2016, and said they made their move "two weeks ago." They did not give an exact date for the alleged assault that caused them to change their minds about their new city. And not everyone believes their story.
Jaelin White, who has not yet responded to our attempts to speak to him, says in the video that he and Brianna moved to Chicago and chose a short-term rental in a good neighborhood north of the Loop, a business district.
Things supposedly went sour quickly when they chose to take the Chicago Red Line to a Chipotle restaurant near Loyola University. They claim that a stranger started talking to them as they waited on the Granville Station platform, asking them where they live and what they do. They say the man made them so uneasy that they skipped the rail, even though they had already bought tickets, and made their way on foot to a nearby Subway restaurant, where they sought shelter. They claim the man followed them there and they believed he was going to shoot or rob them. "I was just worried he had a gun or something," White said.
Nevertheless, he says he went outside to ask the man what he was doing, if he wanted a sandwich or whether he needed help getting home. They then claim they "ordered an Uber" and called 911. Despite claiming to believe the man had a gun and might pose a physical danger, the couple continued talking with him. In a strange twist, White says that they jumped into what they thought was their driver's car, even though their Uber was still five minutes away — but not before their assailant, unprovoked, punched him in the face as hard as he could. They then claim the man tried to pry open the door of the car they had hopped into, but the driver accelerated away to safety.
They then said the driver, whose private vehicle they had apparently commandeered, took them to a CVS parking lot where they saw their alleged attacker celebrating the punch "like a caveman". Despite experiencing what they claim to be a "traumatic" experience and being extremely frightened, they make no mention of filing a police report, even though they claim to have called the police to the CVS parking lot. White says the police called him from the parking lot, but the couple was too busy collecting their valuables and cancelling credit cards to speak to them.
Chicago police told us they did receive a call for service on 23 July 2016 from an Arizona phone number. Police responded, but when they arrived, no one was there to meet them and they found no suspect. They confirmed that neither Jaelin or Brianna White filed a police report.
Peter Bella, writing for Chicago Now, doesn't believe events occurred the way the couple claims they did. Bella notes that while the couple is nebulous about details, like the date and time of the reported assault, they manage to mention numerous brand names. He said that he suspects the video is nothing more than viral marketing:
The video mentions various brand names. Chipolte, Volkswagen, Subway, Uber, Ikea, CVS, and Best Buy. Savvy vloggers tout brand names in their videos in hopes of getting recognition, ads, or endorsements.
The only brand they did not mention was the hotel they fled to. That is a fact that could be checked. No landlord came forward to verify this grim fairy tale. None of the people they allegedly asked for help came forward remembering the incident after the video received attention from the news media.
Though Brianna White claims she called the police, they made no police report after the creepy guy allegedly punched Jaelin.
No one with the name Jaelin White has a real estate license in the state of Arizona, but Jaelin claims to be an investor. Brianna White posts videos about things like make-up, consumer items and her daily routine to her YouTube channel, where she has more than 318,000 subscribers.
Without a police report or corroborating statements from witnesses, it's impossible to verify that Jaelin White was indeed physically assaulted in Chicago. Without documentation of leasing or rental agreements, it's also impossible to say whether they truly intended to move to Chicago. They make no mention of the names or addresses of their prospective residences in that city.
You can view their video describing the alleged incident here, and below you can see the spoof video publicizing the "Brianna and Jaelin White Walking Tour":