Fact Check: NO Evidence 'Hit Squad' From Boeing Killed Whistleblowers

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: NO Evidence 'Hit Squad' From Boeing Killed Whistleblowers No Reports

Did Boeing send a "hit squad" to murder two whistleblowers who raised safety alarms about Boeing aircraft? No, that's not true: As of this writing, no credible sources confirmed foul play in the deaths of these two men. While inquiries into both deaths are still ongoing, available information about the causes of death points to illness and suicide.

The claim about a "hit squad" appeared in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, by @WallStreetSilv on May 1, 2024. The claim said:

Whistleblowers at Boeing just keep dying right after they start alerting

authorities about what is going on at Boeing.

Boeing has an amazing hit squad. Extremely efficient and talented.

It's too bad that Boeing didn't put as much effort into the 737 Max and the 787.

This is what the claim looked like on X at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-05-03 at 10.40.25 AM.png

Twitter screenshot

(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri May 3 14:40:25 2024 UTC)

The post implied that both whistleblowers were murdered by Boeing. However, as of this writing, no credible sources corroborate that.

The post shared a screenshot of a Seattle Times article (archived here), published on May 1, 2024. The newspaper was the first to report the death of the second whistleblower, Joshua Dean. The article did not provide any grounds to substantiate social media rumors about a killing. It also said that Brian Knowles, who is one of Dean's lawyers, said that he "didn't want to speculate about the close timing and circumstances of the two deaths."

The Seattle Times article quoted Dean's mother and aunt. According to them, Dean died after a two-week-long illness during which he was diagnosed with pneumonia and a bacterial infection, MRSA. His mother said that he also suffered a stroke.

In the end, his aunt told the paper, Dean was placed on an ECMO machine, which performs the work of a person's heart and lungs when those organs don't function.

On May 2, 2024, NPR reported (archived here) that his family asked for an autopsy, but that is likely to take weeks or even months.

Previously, in March 2024, another Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett, was found dead inside his vehicle at a hotel parking lot in South Carolina. He had not come to a scheduled hearing where he was expected to continue to testify about his experiences at Boeing.

A CBS affiliate (archived here) reported that Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O'Neal said that Barnett died from "what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

Barnett's family told the Associated Press (archived here) that he "was suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of being subjected to the hostile work environment at Boeing, which we believe led to his death."

CBS News (archived here) also reported that Barnett's mother, Vicky Stokes, placed blame for his death on Boeing -- for stress, she implied. Stokes said: "If this hadn't gone on so long, I'd still have my son, and my sons would have their brother and we wouldn't be sitting here. So in that respect, I do."

Yet neither the Barnett family nor their legal representatives accused Boeing of hiring a "hit squad."

Charleston police said (archived here) that they were investigating Barnett's case. But as of May 3, 2024, no official conclusion had been announced.

A keyword search (archived here) across Google News did not produce any links to fact-based reporting supporting the claim that Boeing had used a "hit squad" to kill either man.

After Dean's death, unsubstantiated speculations about a "hit squad" became so common on social media that the claim turned into a meme (archived here.)

The account whose post is the focus of this fact check says (archived here) that memes are one type of content it publishes. A contact form (archived here) available in its bio identifies the accountholder as "Ivan Bayoukhi."

In 2021, Reuters (archived here) reported that Bayoukhi is a founder of the Reddit community called Wall Street Silver. The agency characterized Bayoukhi as "a 24-year-old former car salesman living with his parents in Alberta, Canada."

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about Boeing can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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