And This Is Why We Have No Trustworthy News Media: The Phantom Somali Hammer Attack.

A week ago, conservative writer Matt Vespa wrote,

There’s media silence in Minneapolis over an attack executed by a group of Somali teens that reportedly attacked bystanders East Bank Light Rail station last Friday. It looks like it was racially motivated. According to reports, anyone who was white or looked like they had money was targeted. The teens used hammers and bars as weapons. … [T]here’s been literally no media coverage of this attack. The only outlet to even mention or ask about it was the crime watch site “2ndPrecinct  Minneapolis Crime Watch and Information. They posted on their Facebook page to note that this attack did happen and that “We were told that we were the ONLY media to inquire to MPD about it. Further proof of our “incurious” local lamestream media”

Several conservative sites, including the frequently dubious Red State and the Granddaddy of Them All, Instapundit, passed on the story in the same vein, hinting darkly that the news media was burying this story because it evoked Muslim-on-white “hate crime”, and because the Left is circling the wagons around besieged Somali immigrant, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The episode began with a police call, in  a police dispatcher states:

“[University of Minnesota Police Department] is asking for assistance from Metro Transit [Police] and Minneapolis [Police] for a group of eight to 10 males at the East Bank light rail station chasing people around with hammers. They do have some people injured. They’re sending us more information, but they’re requesting assistance.”

The rest of the story seems to have been based on an alleged eye-witness report posted on Facebook  by“Jay Hall,” who  wrote “… It was a group of Somali young males with hammers and bars. They were attacking anyone who looked like they had money or were white.”

However, by the time the episode had played out, police were describing it like this in the  report on the incident,:

Around 9.45 p.m. on Saturday 17 May, UMN police officers were dispatched to the East Bank train station on Washington Avenue Southeast, next to the University of Minnesota, after receiving reports of a group of Somali youths with weapons.

Officer Amanda Carlson:

“Upon arrival to the East Bank LRT I saw a group of Somali juveniles running away from officers traveling westbound on Washington Ave SE and turn southbound between Moos Tower and [the] Molecular and Cellular Biology building. I ran after them and heard officers yelling at the juveniles to stop. I turned onto Delaware St SE where officers had several Somali juveniles lying prone with their arms spread out. I placed a male….in handcuffs and performed a search incident to arrest. All other parties were placed in handcuffs and detained by other officers that had arrived on scene…Through further investigation, it was found that …[they were] the two individuals brandishing metal pipes towards others on the light rail platform. Dispatch sent recorded images of the incident on the East Bank LTR which showed [them] holding a metal pipe and handing it to [each other] [They] were placed in the rear of a squad car and transported to UMPD by Officer Brackett….All other parties that had fled on foot and were detained were ultimately released from police custody at the scene. I issued a citation … for disorderly conduct as he engaged in offensive, abusive, boisterous and noisy conduct tending to arouse alarm, flee police as he attempted to evade or elude peace officers, who were acting in the lawful discharge of official duty, by means of running, and false information to police as he provided a fictitious name and false date of birth.”

Carlson further wrote that two metal pipes were taken from the two young men who received the citations.

The second arresting officer, Matthew Williams:

“I aired to dispatch I had nine people proned out on the ground … As other officers began arriving at the turnaround I performed a more accurate count of the number of individuals laying on the ground and observed there to be seven Somali males lying on the ground. I aired this updated information to dispatch that there were seven people proned out on the ground. I was standing over two of the males and had observed the five other people had been placed in handcuffs. I then placed handcuffs on each of the two males I was standing over and informed both of them they were under arrest for fleeing from police on foot … Once all seven males had been placed in handcuffs, officers began identifying the seven Somali males and further investigation began to determine who had been brandishing weapons on the light rail platform …”

UMN police cited two juvenile males on suspicion of disorderly conduct and fleeing a police officer on foot. One of the two was  cited on suspicion of providing a police officer with a false name. All of the alleged crimes are misdemeanors. The investigation is closed.

What’s going on here? I have no idea. It appears that there were no hammers, no attacks targeting whites, and no injuries. It also appears that there were enough Somali teens involved to be credibly called a gang, and if they weren’t brandishing hammers, they were holding metal pipes.

The “news source” that seemed to do the best job unraveling fact from rumor was Snopes, which will always rush to dispute right-wing news sources and blogs. Since the site’s bias is palpable, I don’t trust it, and no one should. But who do you trust here? The “Somalis running around attacking whites with hammers” story sounds like something newsworthy, but it was championed by disreputable sites like “InfoWars,” making the story inherently unbelievable. Are the ultimate misdemeanor charges newsworthy? Of course not. Do I have faith that campus police in Minnesota wouldn’t soft-pedal a potentially explosive story about black Muslim teens attacking people?


The right wing blogs want to believe the worst, so confirmation bias is at play. They can’t be trusted. Is it credible that mainstream media sources would bury a story that supports conservative tropes about “ungrateful,” anti-American Somali immigrants, like Rep. Omar? We know it is. Do we know which position Snopes will work overtime to support? We know that too.

The conclusion is that there is no way to know what happened, or even if anything happened that we care to know about. Such is the state of journalism today, in an environment where partisan leverage is considered more important than transparency and truth.



11 thoughts on “And This Is Why We Have No Trustworthy News Media: The Phantom Somali Hammer Attack.

  1. How are we to judge ethics when we are gaslighted by those reporting the incident? We cannot.

    This describes the state of mass media in the US for the past several years on both sides.

    The only responsible reaction is to order another beer, and call for a ride home.

  2. “Give me your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.”

    Anyone who knows their history knows this to be a bullshit statement. Our history on immigration is abysmal — e.g. Jews fleeing Nazi Germany — but this story is totally ridiculous. I for one couldn’t identify a Somali from an Egyptian. Police can make this distinction? Is there a cabal of Somalis operating here? If so, and iIf the Somalis are so dangerous, why are they here?

    Our immigration policy is completely incomprehensible. But the press only makes it worse: they pick their side and report accordingly, whatever lies are involved.

    • E2
      As for a cabal of Somalis operating in Minneapolis I don’t know. What is known is that between 2008 and 2016 over 54,000 Somalis were resettled in the Twin Cities area. If the population of African descent is principally Somali why should they not be thought to be Somali. You can distinguish Africans from the Northern and Eastern regions of Africa from their sub Saharan cousins just as you can distinguish a Guatamalan from a Mexican

      Eyewitness testimony is woefully unreliable so the person claiming that they were wielding hammers is subject to correction but the metal bars were confiscated.

      The story may have some glaring errors but we do know that at least 7 non-white youths were arrested after police were called to resolve an issue of people brandishing, for all itents and purposes, a weapon on a train platform.

      If 7 young people accost you on a train platform and some have metal bars you will feel threatened. What the eventual charges are is irrelevant to the issue because charges are often have political and social considerations unrelated to the alleged victims.

  3. I was skeptical of this report from the beginning. Many of the people passing it on are generally reliable, but clearly not always. More skepticism was certainly warranted.

    As time went on, I got more and more suspicious — no matter how left-wing the media is, there are always people willing to publish stories like this just for the number of pageviews it gets. I have seen a few stories buried by the left, but none as thoroughly as this considering the racial violence angle.

    I’m glad I was skeptical. Maybe it did happen, but I doubt it. Something happened, but Somali youths beating whites with … anything probably wasn’t one of them.

    • Many people’s first reaction to things like this is, strangely, to start messaging people. Panicked texts may have started rumors.

        • I see video online all the time that make me ask why they were filming and not intervening, or escaping, as the situation dictates.

          • Yeah, that’s a good point.

            And to that point, it all seems to relate back to the desire of people to become some kind of social media sensation. Back in, say, the 1980’s, nobody would’ve thought about trying to film a mob action unless that was their hobby or profession. Today, anyone with a phone will risk their own lives just for social media accolades.

            Example: the disturbingly large number of people who have been killed in falls trying to take dramatic selfies for social media accolades at the Grand Canyon and other high places.

  4. Brandishing a weapon is a felony as I understand it. Why the Somali teen received only a citation for disorderly conduct eludes me. Perhaps the cops were afraid that Al Sharpton would show up with a group of thugs shouting “No justice, no peace.”

    • I think brandishing laws generally apply only to “deadly weapons,” and most apply mainly to firearms. A club, under some circumstances could be considered a deadly weapon, although I think just a piece of wood or pipe might require a threat beyond mere possession, unless it were “concealed.”

      So just finding a young person with a club of some kind in his hand, absent evidence of an intent to use it to harm someone, would not qualify under most brandishing statutes. It would probably fall under misdemeanor disorderly conduct, as walking around with a club is not “orderly” in anyone’s mind. Unless, of course, there was a true threat involved.

  5. Looking at just the established and (mainly) undisputed facts of the incident, with reasoned ethical and legal analysis of the subsequent reporting aside, it seems fairly obvious that these “teens” were up to no good. Had I been present on the subject train platform, the obvious possession of pipes or clubs by a group of teens (or adults) of any color or ethnicity would have prompted me to put my hand on my (legal, nationwide) concealed handgun -not my iPhone- and to prepare to respond defensively to any overt aggressive action on their part. Being sixty-five and mobility impaired give me a definition of “feeling unsafe” that is very different from that of today’s oppressed college students. I doubt that this event on the train platform was an impromptu meeting of teenage apprentice pipefitters or structural welders, so otherwise their legitimate possession of these items is inexplicable. To paraphrase Dirty Harry, “They weren’t out collecting for the Red Cross.” Stupid teenage behavior, most likely, but stupid teenage behavior involving weapons can easily escalate into tragedy for all involved. I have no more desire to be killed by a stupid teenager than by anyone else. And if any would doubt, a pipe or rod certainly has potential as a deadly weapon. Homicide by blunt instrument or blunt object accounts for hundreds of deaths annually. I have personally witnessed the results of fatal beatings with such weapons and it ain’t pretty. Rule of thumb: don’t bring a pipe to a gunfight.

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