Denver Police Department Shoots Down Al-Qaeda Conspiracy Theory on X | Westword

Denver Police Shoot Down Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory About Al-Qaeda Arrests

"It is the goal of our department to provide accurate information to our community," says a DPD spokesperson.
A video discussing the DPD conspiracy theory went viral Sunday, February 4.
A video discussing the DPD conspiracy theory went viral Sunday, February 4. X/@WallStreetApes
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A viral video watched over 1.5 million times on X prompted nationwide pearl-clutching from right-wing conspiracy theorists over the past weekend; the clip claimed that the DPD had arrested over fifty al-Qaeda members over the past two months in the Mile High City β€” and was keeping it secret.

"Americans Have No Idea How Bad Things Really Are," says @WallStreetApes in an X post accompanying the video, uploaded early Sunday, February 4.

The user has nearly 270,000 followers and describes itself as a conspiracy theorist "followed by @DonaldjTrumpJr πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ @joerogan πŸͺ¬ @dbongino πŸŽ™οΈ @mattgaetz πŸ›οΈ @catturd2 πŸͺ€ @JamesOKeefeIII πŸ—žοΈ."

In the video, a man claims that a DPD officer "at the airport," who wasn't identified, told him in an "off the record" conversation about the arrests and other problems plaguing the police department, including how "they're cutting the police budget" and identifying "sleeper cells all over Colorado."

The DPD caught wind of the X post after being tagged by other users, including Colorado media members, and was having none of it. After receiving thousands of X replies and a huge amount of backlash from fringe conservatives, who were citing the phony al-Qaeda arrests as proof of "Biden's America," the DPD responded to many people online, including @WallStreetApes, letting them know the video and claims were false. The department also posted information on two actual cases involving terror-related arrests of alleged al-Qaeda members made in 2023, saying they were the only ones that the department was involved in last year.

A police spokesperson told Westword on Monday, February 5, that the department felt the need to publicly clear the air in an X post after receiving so much negative feedback.

"It is the goal of our department to provide accurate information to our community," the rep said. "Publicly available resources for information include our online crime map and dashboards, performance and transparency dashboards, press release archive and information shared via social media."

Asked if the DPD had arrested "over fifty" al-Qaeda members ever β€” like, in its entire history β€” the spokesperson replied: "While DPD may assist with an investigation or an arrest, such investigations are typically led by federal agencies." The U.S. Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As for "sleeper cell" cases, those would fall under other agencies, too, β€œthough the DPD does not have information that would substantiate the claim," the spokesperson said.

Discussing the @WallStreetApes claim that the police budget was being cut, the DPD rep noted that the mayor's office "has asked every city agency to identify potential budget savings." But the spokesperson disputed the post's claim that officers are "on foot" because of a cop car shortage, pointing to the department's "large fleet of vehicles that are managed to minimize impacts to service."

Congressional candidate John Fabbricatore, a retired member of the Senior Executive Service and former field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who's running in CD6, was one of the first people to call out @WallStreetApes for posting false information. He says that if fifty al-Qaeda members had been arrested, someone would have told him about it.

"I was in law enforcement for thirty years. I have a lot of contacts I can reach out to and who would reach out to me if this happened," Fabbricatore, a Republican, tells Westword. "Right away, after watching the video, I said there's no way this could have happened."

Fabbricatore is concerned that the DPD has to handle false accusations when law enforcement is dealing with actual crimes and terrorists. "My whole point of calling this out online was because we have situations occurring that are bad enough," Fabbricatore says. "We don't need to add hyperbole and inflame the matter."

The CD6 candidate points out that actual arrests of terrorists in Aurora and other parts of Colorado in recent years got nowhere near the attention of this video. "We have caught real terrorists here; we don't need to be putting things out there to cause people to go fanatical," Fabbricatore says. "This video hit 1.5 million views and went viral very quickly. And my fear is that we are putting out false narratives like this that are actually getting believed when we have real concerns that people aren't aware of."

The two 2023 arrests the DPD highlighted on X were of eighteen-year-old Humzah Mashkoor, of Westminster, on December 18, and eighteen-year-old Davin Daniel Meyer, of Castle Rock, on July 14. According to court records, the two were both charged with attempting to provide material to support terror groups, including ISIS.

Fabbricatore praises the DPD for speaking out against the post, saying it's important to call out false claims on social media that may detract from actual police work.

"Social media is this weird animal where it's part entertainment, part news," he concludes. "With citizen journalists, we are able to see things quicker and in an unabashed 'dirty' kind of journalism, which I think a lot of people actually like. They want to see it fresh and raw. But you do have to look at some of that and make sure it's not just for clicks and that people aren't putting things out that can inflame people to go off in the wrong direction and start looking at every Middle Eastern person like they might belong to al-Qaeda. It's not a good situation when we do that and there's real work being done that deserves to be recognized."
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