The Huffington Post got duped by a Twitter user claiming to have witnessed Tuesday night’s fatal police shooting of a man in a St. Louis suburb. It published an account – which it later withdrew – of a police officer opening fire on a teenager because he would not lie down on the ground. It then published a correction – first at the top of the story, then moving it to the bottom.
The shooting occurred in Berkeley, an inner suburb of St. Louis not far from Ferguson, where police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, setting off a wave of protests around the country. Details of what happened Tuesday night remained sparse. Police have not identified the name of the officer, the victim or the race of either one. The Huffington Post and other media have reported the victim was black.
Police said in a statement that a Berkeley officer was conducting a “routine business check” at a gas station when he saw two male subjects outside the station. As the officer approached the men, one pulled a handgun and pointed it at the officer. “Fearing for his life, the Berkeley Officer fired several shots, striking the subject, fatally wounding him,” the statement said. Police said the other man fled the scene.
In its initial story, the Huffington Post quoted a Twitter user named “Jesus Christo” who claimed to have been with the victim, whom he called “Antonio.” The person would not speak to the Huffington Post over the phone but reportedly told the reporter via Twitter that he and the victim were told they matched the descriptions of two robbery suspects. He said the officer tried to search the victim but the victim would not let him, according to the news outlet.
“The officer then stepped back and drew his weapon and pointed at Antonio and told us to lay on the ground,” Jesus Christo reportedly told the Huffington Post. “I layed [sic] down but Antonio refused.”
“The officer then began to step back from us with his gun still aimed at us,” he reportedly continued. “He told Antonio to lay down once again and when Antonio didn’t lay down the officer opened fire. And when I tried to get up to help my friend he screamed at me to stay down with his weapon still drawn.”
The story was written by Sebastian Murdock, an associate editor at the Huffington Post, apparently before police issued their statement.
The story lit up Twitter, with some saying they thought the Huffington Post had been “duped.” The Huffington Post later issued a correction:
A previous version of this story included an interview with a man claiming to have been at the scene of the shooting and friends with the deceased. As police have released statements saying the second person involved in the incident has fled the scene, the source is now suggesting he was never there.
“I was misled and made a foolish error,” Murdock said on Twitter. “Thank you all for pointing this out. I am correcting the story to reflect as much.”
I was misled and made a foolish error. Thank you all for pointing this out. I am correcting the story to reflect as much.
— Sebastian Murdock (@SebastianMurdoc) December 24, 2014
Neither “Jesus Christo” nor Murdock could be immediately reached for comment. But a Twitter user by the same name retweeted the Huffington Post’s correction and said in a separate tweet, “Tell The Huffington Post to do a better job of finding credible sources.”
Tell The Huffington Post to do a better job of finding credible sources. — Jesús Christo (@DesJuanTheThug) December 24, 2014