A Facebook post claimed a man selling Trump merchandise was attacked. Police say even the alleged victim described a “very different encounter.”
EASTON — A Facebook post claimed a veteran selling Trump 2020 merchandise on the side of the road was “attacked” by people who jumped out of vans, spit on the man and drove off – all while a police officer, who was directing traffic nearby, told the victim there was “nothing he could do.”
But police say the incident didn’t occur as reported on social media. They say the woman who made the post wasn’t actually present when the incident occurred and that the alleged victim described a “very different encounter” – one in which the officer who was accused of idly standing by had actually already left the scene.
We can deliver news just like this directly to your inbox. You can sign up for This Just In (a daily 7:30 p.m. newsletter with items we’ve posted that day), News Alerts (so you don’t miss anything important) and more. It’s customized to your preferences — and it’ll only take a few seconds.
The online rumors started on a thread on the closed-to-the-public Easton Political Alliance Facebook page. A comment was made by LoriAnn Johnson on Sunday under an original post that showed a photograph of the pop-up tent selling merchandise in support of President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign.
“One of their veteran workers was set up there this morning and he was attacked by a few people Who pulled up in vans. He had to shut down for today,” the post stated.
When someone asked whether police had been called, Johnson went on to comment that an officer was nearby directing traffic for a motorcycle run at the time.
“When the worker asked for help the police officer said there was nothing he could do,” she posted.
Screenshots of the posts were then shared on other public Facebook pages, garnering nearly 150 comments and more than a dozen shares. People called for the officer to be suspended and even fired.
Deputy Police Chief Keith Boone told The Enterprise that police only learned of a potential incident on Monday morning, after the Facebook posts were brought to the department’s attention.
He said an officer was helping facilitate a motorcycle charity run to get safely through the intersection of Turnpike (Route 138) and Foundry (Route 106) streets, where the pop-up shop is located, about 11:20 a.m. on Sunday.
“At no point did this officer have any contact with someone reporting a crime or seeking help from being ‘attacked,'” Boone said.
On Monday morning, Boone said he read the Facebook posts and spoke with the officer who was working on Sunday. He said the officer was “quite puzzled” by the post because he wasn’t approached by anyone, nor was anything reported to the Police Department during any of Sunday’s shifts.
Boone said he asked the officer to locate the woman who posted that the officer had done nothing in order to determine if she was a witness to a crime and to help police locate a potential victim.
“The officer was able to locate and speak with her (Monday) morning and learned that she was not present, nor did she know exactly what had occurred, other than her employee was the alleged victim involved and spoke to her after the incident took place,” Boone said.
The woman told police that three vans pulled up in front of her employee while he was at the corner of Turnpike and Foundry streets and that “15 Spanish looking people jumped out,” Boone said. She claimed that they surrounded the worker, spat on him and called him racial slurs. She told the officer she was under the impression that he tried to speak to an officer and that nothing could be done.
“It’s still unclear to us why she would be under this impression but nevertheless, that’s what was posted on social media,” Boone said.
Police also contacted the man who had been selling merchandise on Sunday.
“He described a very different encounter than previously explained to the officer,” Boone said. “In fact, he stated that approximately 20 to 30 minutes after the motorcycle run had gone through the intersection and the police officer had left, a ‘tinted Audi truck’ pulled into the parking lot.”
The man told police that two people – a man and a woman – exited the vehicle and yelled at him. They called him racial slurs and spat on the ground, he said, but did not spit on him, as was reported on social media.
“He was asked if either of them physically harmed him or attacked him in any way. He stated they had not,” Boone said. “He was asked if he attempted to speak with a police officer or contacted the Easton Police Department at any time regarding the incident. He stated that he had not.”
The man told police he didn’t report the incident because “it was just verbal,” Boone said. Police asked the man about the possibility of 15 people being involved or any vans being present during the encounter. He told officers a brown van was in the corner of the parking lot, but no one got out of it or approached him.
“As of now, there has been no crime committed and while a report was generated today, I don’t anticipate any further investigation,” Boone said.
Johnson, who posted the initial comments on Facebook, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Boone said he was disappointed and that it was unfortunate some members of the community would berate an officer on social media based on the circumstances.
“The officer in question is one of our newer officers who was raised in town and takes great pride in serving his community. He, along with all of our officers, strive each day to make Easton a great place to live, work and raise a family,” he said. “We all try to create positive interactions with the community on a daily basis and the notion that an officer would turn his or her back on someone being attacked is outrageous. But, we can only control what we can control and will continue to set out each day committed to delivering excellent police services to the town.”
Senior reporter Cody Shepard can be reached by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @cshepard_ENT.