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Shooting story morphs into 'fake news'

It's one thing to hear about "fake news." It's another thing entirely to see your own story and photograph hijacked and used as bait for an alt-anything "news" story.

That's exactly what happened to the Post Bulletin recently. A heavily distorted version of a local news story was published during the weekend on Freedom Daily, an online news source described by Media Bias/Fact Check as an "extreme right-wing biased news and opinion site that uses inflammatory language to describe liberals, minorities and Muslims. Often does not source to credible information."

The story featured a photo taken by PB photographer Andrew Link last week after a shooting in a parking lot off 16th Avenue Northwest — without credit to either Link or the Post Bulletin.

The photo was of two men, Abdi Omar Abukar, 21, and Idris Abdillahi Haji-Mohamed, 22, who were arrested a few blocks away shortly after the shooting. The man they allegedly were shooting at hasn't been located.

Above the story was a headline: "Cops Just Raided Olive Garden Where Obama's Muslim Refugees Were And Made DISTURBING Find Inside."

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Spoiler: The story never says what the cops found inside because there was no raid.

The story, attributed to Amanda Shea , says Rochester "has been systematically destroyed" and "sees daily gunfire like Chicago."

The story goes on to say one of the three men involved in the shooting "likely is being harbored … until the urge to kill strikes again." The man being referred to in that sentence was the victim in the case; witnesses told law enforcement he didn't have a weapon.

Shea criticizes not only Rochester, but Minnesotans as a whole, quoting a conservative blogger who calls us "a people who are — sadly — easy to manipulate."

She also takes aim at Gov. Mark Dayton, calling him "probably one of the biggest Islamic sympathizers in the nation next to Barack Obama."

Nothing travels like bad news, however: By Monday evening, the story had been shared more than 25,000 times, if Freedom Daily's numbers are to be believed.

The headline was outrageous enough to draw the attention of Snopes , an independent website that researches internet rumors. The site labeled Freedom Daily's story false.

Snopes' fact-checker contacted Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin, who is quoted as saying , "That article is fake. That information is not coming from local law enforcement or any information that has been given out regarding this case. There are assumptions being made about many things based on names (of the suspects). We did not raid the Olive Garden — however, it is lunch time, and I'm thinking about getting some bread sticks now."

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Sherwin then referred the Snopes folks to the Post Bulletin story "for an accurate representation of the incident."

In addition, the debunking claim says, "Authorities have little information on the person who the two (suspects) are accused of chasing and firing on and do not believe that person is being 'harbored by fellow refugees.'"

Snopes concludes, "The FreedomDaily.com article appears to have manipulated a local crime story to fit an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narrative."

We would agree and add that Sherwin gets points for the bread sticks line.

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