Colorado man, whose claim of being stabbed for looking like neo-Nazi went viral earlier this month, admits to faking police report after knife accident
This article titled “US man who said he was stabbed for looking like neo-Nazi actually stabbed himself” was written by Sam Levin in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Monday 28th August 2017 19.59 UTC
A Colorado man who claimed that someone had stabbed him because he looked like a “neo-Nazi” fabricated the story after he accidentally cut his hand with a knife, according to police.
Joshua Witt, who has been arrested on false reporting charges, admitted to law enforcement in Sheridan, Colorado, that he lied to officers when he alleged that a black man had attacked him for having a haircut associated with white supremacists, police officials said Monday.
Witt’s original allegations went viral on social media this month, garnering press coverage across the globe, particularly from conservative newspapers that cited the stabbing as an example of violent leftwing activists attacking white people.
Witt – a 26-year-old originally from San Diego, California – told officers on 16 August that a suspect came up to him as he was getting out of his car in the parking lot of a burger restaurant. Witt, according to police, reported that the man said, “Are you [one] of them neo-Nazi?” and then tried to stab him with a small knife. Witt said that he was cut while trying to block the knife with his hand.
Witt described the attacker as a black man in his mid 20s, 5ft 10in, wearing a green shirt and blue pants, and claimed that the suspect ran off toward a bike path along a nearby river.
Sheridan police chief Mark Campbell said in an interview Monday that officers were immediately suspicious of Witt’s story, since the attack allegedly happened in a very busy parking lot and police received no other reports of an assault.
“No one else called this in,” he said. “No one heard him scream. No one saw any type of altercation. That was the first red flag.”
Although Witt posted photos on Facebook showing a lot of blood, the actual wound was very minor, Campbell said. Witt has since taken down his Facebook post, which was shared tens of thousands of times over several days.
Campbell said surveillance footage of the lot did not show any evidence of a suspect running from the scene. Police did, however, question someone who fit Witt’s description – a man who appeared to be homeless and possibly lived nearby, Campbell said. But Witt could not identify the man in a line-up and police cleared him, according to the chief.
Campbell also noted that, as Witt’s mugshot reveals, at the time of the alleged attack, he did not have a haircut resembling the side fade that has recently become associated with neo-Nazis. In his Facebook profile photo, however, his hair was styled that way.
Police also found footage of Witt buying a small knife at a nearby sports store.
When officers brought Witt in for another interview last week, he admitted that he had lied, police said.
“He was opening up the knife package in the car and he cut himself,” Campbell said, adding, “I don’t believe he showed any remorse. Our take is he kind of made this up and it kind of got out of control when it went on Facebook.”
Witt was arrested last week and could face a fine of $2,650 and up to a year in jail if convicted of false reporting.
Campbell said there was no evidence that Witt had any ties to white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups and that he works as a heating and air conditioning technician.
Witt could not be immediately reached for comment.
Witt’s original claims earned sympathetic headlines from conservative news sites, including a Fox News’ report titled, “Anti-Fascist Stabs Innocent Man Over ‘Neo-Nazi’ Haircut”. As of Monday afternoon, Fox had not updated the story.
There have been similar high-profile stories of fabricated assaults over the last year. In the spring, two white hunters in Texas claimed they were shot by Mexican immigrants who had illegally crossed the border and tried to rob them, but police later said they made up the story and had actually fired at each other.
In Georgia, a white police officer said she was shot by a black suspect, but police said an investigation revealed that she had fabricated the shooting.
Campbell said the police department was working to spread the word about the false report.
“There are a lot of people that are actual victims of bias-motivated crimes,” he said, adding, “When a false report like this comes in, it scares people … The whole community gets upset and concerned.”
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