Jacqueline Medina says that on 22 May 2017, her father Jose was driving to his job in Moreno Valley, California, when he stopped at a gas station on Alessandro Boulevard to fill up his tank. Both were surprised when the routine activity landed him in the hospital.
Jose Medina reported that he found himself cut by a hypodermic needle wedged in the gas nozzle, forcing him to go to a nearby hospital for blood tests and infection prevention. But when the father and daughter went public with their story in hopes of cautioning people, Jacqueline said she was besieged by readers conflating her father’s injury with a 17-year-old hoax debunked by Snopes.com. She told us:
I was getting personal messages saying I must not have a life and must be really bored to be coming up with stories.
Jose Medina’s incident has nothing to do with the older hoax that was circulated via chain email in 2000. That hoax featured a made-up police officer warning people in the Jacksonville, Florida, area that someone had been placing HIV-infected needles under gas pump handles. The text of the hoax email read, in part:
My name is Captain Abraham Sands of the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department. I have been asked by state and local authorities to write this email in order to get the word out to car drivers of a very dangerous prank that is occurring in numerous states.
Some person or persons have been affixing hypodermic needles to the underside of gas pump handles. These needles appear to be infected with HIV positive blood. In the Jacksonville area alone there have been 17 cases of people being stuck by these needles over the past five months. We have verified reports of at least 12 others in various states around the country.
Medina and her father spoke to local television station Fox11 about the incident. She said, “If it was fake, I wouldn’t even be here talking to you. We wouldn’t have involved the police.” When we spoke to her on 26 May 2017, she and her father were still awaiting the lab results from his hospital visit.
Deputy Armando Munoz of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Jose Medina filed a report on 23 May 2017 about the incident in Moreno Valley, which police are investigating.
Unlike the e-mail hoax that circulated in 2000, the incident involving Jose Medina really occurred, as evidenced by the puncture wound he showed on camera and the fact he reported it to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The hoax circulated seventeen years prior involved another city across the continent from the Medinas’s California home.
A video of the Fox11 report shows Medina’s wound: