Hoax Alert: Black Teen NOT Shot After Police Mistake Hoverboard For Machine Gun

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk

A fake news story is being spread online about a police officer named Sam Gatling shooting a black teen holding a hoverboard in Gary, Indiana. The cop was said to be claiming he mistook the toy for a machine gun because the teen was holding it "like an assault rifle". To top things of the officer involved just happened to be "Grand Dragon of the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan" as well.

None of it is true, of course. The entire story is made up and seems to be designed to inflame readers to the point where they share it online without thinking, upset at so much blatant racism.

Take for instance this quote, allegedly by the officer involved:

truly, this is a tragedy, but I assure you that Gary Police protocol was followed from the very beginning. Any black male with anything that looks suspicious is to be treated as a potential threat. It's in the book. There's a lot of people that say that because I am a KKK member that this incident was fueled by racism. I assure you that I was merely doing my job as a police officer which has never been affected by my relationship with the order of the Klu Klux Klan which is no longer a racist organization it's strictly to uplift the white race we don't hate blacks

You can't make it any more racist and offensive if you tried. Well, actually, you can, by mentioning that the officer involved only got put on paid leave, "pending an investigation". Which is exactly what the story ends with.

Here is why the story is false:

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  • The picture used with the article shows a police cruiser from Miami-Dade county, which is more than 1,100 miles from Gary, Indiana. And ironically it shows an African-American policewoman.
  • The story has not been reported on by any reputable news sites. The only sites propagating the article are well known fake news sites like Huzlers, Celebtricity and TMZUncut (not the real TMZ.com).
  • The article is undated, unlike real news articles.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organisation that monitors varous hate groups around the country, does not even list a KKK-branch in Gary, Indiana.

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However that didn't stop thousands of people from sharing the article online. If you see someone sharing this story, feel free to direct them here to get informed!


  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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