An 82-year-old woman named Annabelle Williams is sleeping in her bed and hears a window break in the middle of the night. She hears voices, grabs her gun, and begins shooting. She kills two intruders, and a third is apprehended by police shortly after. Hundreds of thousands across the internet cheer in approval and support.
Except, it never happened. The entire tale is a pure fabrication. Let’s examine the evidence.
The story first appeared on aazah.com on Feb. 15, 2015 and in a span of a little over three weeks obtained 263,000 ‘likes.’ For context here is the article in its entirety:
Police are still trying to piece together the events of Tuesday evening after teens attempted to rob an 82 year old woman and she fired back killing the intruders.
Annabelle Williams, who just turned 82 yesterday, says she was in bed sleeping when she heard glass shattering in another bedroom. Startled, she thought a tree branch had broken the window but she then heard voices. That’s when she grabbed her gun.
‘I feared for my life, but I wasn’t ready to die,’ she recalled. ‘I started praying and I asked the Lord to guide my hands’ Williams says as she heard the footsteps of the intruders getting closer to her bedroom, she reached into her nightstand and and shot in the direction of their shadows. She struck two of the three intruders, one made it out but was later picked up by police. The other two lay dead in her living room.
Annabelle who is a member of her local neighborhood watch said she has owned a gun for 10 years now, after being mugged once before. ‘Its a shame you can’t sleep at night in your own home where you are supposed to feel safe without being threatened and robbed,’ she continues. ‘I purchased the gun hoping I would never have to use it, but I had no idea what they would do if I gave them a chance to get close to me.’
Williams fired 5 times hitting one of the teens in the chest and the other in the stomach. Because of their age police are not releasing the names at this time, but are saying the teens died as a result of the gun shot wounds. The third burglar is being held and charged with breaking and entering.
Police have not yet charged Williams, who has no prior arrests, but she was detained and later released.
Do you note anything strange? For example, the article begins with “the police” but names no specific department or jurisdiction. “Annabelle Williams” is said to be “a member of her local neighborhood watch,” but the article does not specify what city or state this scene is alleged to take place. There are several quotes, but it is unclear who had originally prompted the questions. A reporter? The police report?
“Breaking News?” From where? What station? What network? Where’s the original newscast video? Let us pay no attention to the glaring oddities and omissions. No, we have a story here! Gun activists love it. It’s a grizzly feel-good story. People like to hear that the bad guy didn’t get away.
That, it seems, is the line of thinking taken by popular websites and personalities. Plenty of other publications covered this tale while obviously doing zero due diligence of their own. A snappy headline is what catches the attention of the reader. The facts be damned! These websites are equally as complicit in the act of spreading lies and misinformation.
Miseeharris.com covered, word for word, the heroic tale of Annabelle Williams on Feb 23, 2015. Misee Harris, herself, published the article. If the name Misee Harris seems familiar, it should. Dr. Misee Harris, a practicing dentist, became famous for her social media campaign to become the first ever black “Bachelorette.” She didn’t succeed, but she did receive a plethora of extreme social media hate and bigotry; quite a consolation prize. Harris shared the erroneous article on her official Facebook page with 40,000 followers. Harris is also a YouTube star with 11,000 followers. Let us hope that none of her audience members are interested in accuracy and prefer salaciousness.
Askkissy.com followed the same route, reproducing the entire article on Feb. 23, 2015.
They were classy enough to break the lies up into a 4 page article, without an ounce of shame, to ensure the maximum amount of click profit would be generated. Askkissy.com is owned by Kissy Denise, an individual who dubs herself as a “born-again Christian” and “social media socialite.” Kissy’s website’s about page says: “A lot of what you will find on this blog is just a matter of Kissy’s opinion.” Opinions? Sure. Reproducing baseless lies without taking the time to research information? That’s simply irresponsible. Kissy has a Facebook following of 190,000 members, to whom she happily shared this nonsense.
Swagghopent.com covered the story word for word on Feb. 24, 2015. They humbly bill themselves as a “one stop shop 2 music, news, and the streets.” Their about page features the editor, Roman Bishop, who is graciously described as “quickly emerging as a promiident buisness man’ (emphasis added for stupidity’s sake).
If Mr. Bishop were as promiident as he believes himself to be, perhaps he could first purchase a dictionary for his editorial staff and then attempt to learn, in due time, the values of researching before publishing.
Kennyonline.net covered the story on Feb. 24, 2015. This publication receives extremely marginal credit for writing “allegedly” before copying and pasting the original article. Kennyonline.net is the home to radio personality Kenny Smoov, who can be heard on WQQK-FM out of Nashville 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single day of the week. Smoov’s about page boasts a hefty resume including dual awards for “Program Director of the Year” bestowed by the Southern Entertainment Awards and Radio Ink. It seems that train has come off of the rails. Did the criteria for either of those awards include researching before publishing untrue fabrications? WQQK-FM had no problem sharing this lie on their official Facebook page with 41,000 followers. Did Mr. Smoov feature the article during his broadcast? Five hours a day is a large chunk of air to fill. I don’t have time, nor the inclination, to listen to 100’s of hours of radio blather from an individual who allowed fallacious nonsense to be published on his medium. Let us simply agree, based on the evidence, the odds are better than average that the story was disseminated to the entirety of the greater Nashville area. Shameful!
Notallowedto.com sort of covered the story at an unknown time. They copied the first two paragraphs into an article, but nothing else. Why? Who knows, but they have 165,000 Facebook followers. Their laziness will spare them from further filleting. At time of writing, the article remains among the top featured stories on their website’s front page.
This lie also found itself an international audience.
Codewit.com, which describes itself as a “groundbreaking” “journalism and communication organization” based in Africa, published the original content of the false article in its entirety on Feb. 24, 2015. Codewit.com’s about page claims: “Our sources are able to provide quick, efficient, and accurate reporting of breaking news in a matter of seconds.” Quick? Yes. Efficient and accurate? No. Quickness is rarely a friend to accuracy. An entire continent has been misinformed thanks to these snake oil salespeople.
Lastly, a joker attempted to mumble jibberish while discussing the fraudulent case:
What lessons can be taken from this debacle of laziness, greed, and stupidity? Do not believe everything you read.
Trusted sources and national celebrities can be, and often are, easily fooled.
The need to rush and publish a story first dominates journalism, rather than ensuring accuracy. Perhaps, in the future, these individuals will learn from their mistakes and commit themselves to truth. Otherwise they will again find themselves on the receiving end of my acid tipped pen.
All publishers featured in this article were notified. They were not given an opportunity to correct their errors before this article went to publication because that is not how the game is played.