As demonstrated by a racially charged protest gone fatally wrong in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month, white supremacists have no shame. But if they did, they'd probably be humiliated by even the slightest association with Colorado's own Joshua Witt, who claimed to have been stabbed because of his resemblance to a neo-Nazi, only to later admit that the wound was self-inflicted.
The world learned about Witt's injury because he wrote about it online, and in his case, social media proved a lot more personally dangerous to him than any suburban antifa. Witt's now facing a criminal charge, as is eighteen-year-old Viet Trinh, whose bust after sharing photos of himself posing with stolen guns offers even more proof that Facebook can be a cruel mistress.
At this writing, Witt's Facebook page, which identified him as a boatswain's mate for the U.S. Navy stationed in San Diego, is offline. But this belated attempt to disguise his douchebaggery was too little, too late, since the pretentious pose he struck for his profile pic was already stuck deep in the Internet's craw. And so was an August 16 post in which he used photos of his gashed hand, plus images of blood splattered on his jeans and his car's interior, to illustrate an apparent attempt to establish himself as a Caucasian martyr.
"Sooooooo apparently I look like a neo-nazi and got stabbed for it," he wrote. "Luckily I put my hands up to stop it so he only stabbed my hand.... please keep in mind there was no conversation between me and this dude I was literally just getting out of my car."
Witt, who's 26, didn't stop at simply trying to generate a little social-media sympathy for himself from aggrieved racists who think they're the victims of discrimination. He also reported the supposed crime to the cops.
Which proved to be his next mistake.
According to the Sheridan Police Department, Witt said he was stabbed in the parking lot of the Steak ’n Shake restaurant at 3502 South River Point Parkway. He maintained that a suspect asked him, "Are you one of them neo-Nazis?" before making his point by jabbing a small knife into the meatiest part of Witt's mitt.
The assailant was a black male in his mid-twenties, standing about five feet, ten inches and wearing a green shirt and blue pants, Witt insisted. He added that the man ran toward a bike path close to the Platte River after perforating him.
In the wake of the incident, Witt happily shared his tale with media outlets such as CBS4, whose piece struck a patriotic tone. "He wears his hair short while he serves his country," anchor Jim Benemann said at the outset of the station's piece, "and a Colorado man believes he was stabbed by a stranger because of that haircut."
The main person on camera in the CBS4 report was Sheridan Police Chief Mark Campbell, who said, "I don’t think this is anything other than an isolated incident. But for the victim, it was very scary, because the stabbing could have been worse. He did raise his hands in a defensive posture. That’s why he got the wounds in his hand and not some other part of his body."
Campbell's de facto endorsement of this account didn't hold up for long. A subsequent SPD news release says investigators became suspicious about Witt's version of events after viewing surveillance video from the area, which didn't show a knife-wielder racing away from the scene. And while the police did find someone matching the description offered by Witt, the man — a transient who lives in the area — was quickly exonerated.
Another video sealed the deal. This one was shot in a nearby sporting goods store and showed that Witt had purchased a small knife shortly before he began leaking red stuff.
At that point, Witt was called in for another interview with the cops — and during the conversation that followed, he told them he accidentally cut himself while sitting in his car, after which he made up the story about being attacked.
Thanks to this confession, another photo of Witt began making the rounds: a mug shot.
Along with this lovely image, Witt received a summons charging him with false reporting to authorities, an offense whose punishment maxes out at a $2,650 fine and a year in jail.
No telling if Witt will actually spend time in stir for his foray into fiction. But if he does, he'd better steer clear of any neo-Nazis who might be in lockup at the same time....
And Trinh? His case offers another angle on social-media risks. Simply put, authorities frequently use the medium to look for evidence — and Trinh helpfully provided it.
As detailed in an affidavit obtained by 7News, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an agency still shorthanded as the ATF, were looking into a pair of burglaries at two metro gun shops when a confidential source provided them with the names of five people who had allegedly done the deeds.
One of them was Trinh, who Facebooked under the pseudonym "Kyle Zimmerman." Not only did Trinh publish the two photos seen in this post, but his timeline also contained presumed back-and-forths about the stolen booty.
"Know anyone that wants to buy a baby .40? $300," he asked at one point. In another post, he boasted about another weapon: "Got my 9" wit 2 full clips. Mixed with poison hallows, regular hallows and strait meadle jackets."
Trinh has now been booked on suspicion of stealing from a federal firearms licensee, a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison per count. The four others are in trouble, too, but because they're all still juveniles, their identities haven't been released.
As a result, we don't know if members of the younger quartet Facebooked incriminating selfies, too. But in Trinh's case, a picture is worth a thousand words — and possibly a long stretch behind bars.
Of course, Witt and Trinh aren't the first people to be busted in part because of online oversharing. Back in 2014, we told you the story of Steven Paula, who was arrested (and later convicted) of punching out another driver during a road-rage incident. Turns out the proof against Paula was provided by a screen capture from a Snapchat video of the assault that was taken and shared by his daughter.
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The following year, a Facebook item led to the arrest of Aurora's Cherica Winston. On her page, she wrote, "$50 bucks and you can have this damn pitt. imma keep shooting her with this tazer and bb gun till she's gone. fuck this dog."
These words alone weren't a crime. But someone who saw them contacted the Aurora Police Department, which sent officers to Winston's apartment. They soon discovered that the puppy hadn't been tased or shot, but it was in a small crate with no food and water and smelled strongly of urine and feces. For that reason, Winston was cited on suspicion of animal cruelty.
Clearly, neither Witt nor Trinh learned anything from these examples, and now they're in danger of having the book thrown at them.
Make that the Facebook.