A Twitter Smear of the Sheriff’s Department Races Around the World While the Truth Is Still Tying Its Shoes
Earlier today, I saw a tweet that claimed that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had justified the shooting of Dijon Kizze in South Los Angeles “bc [because] Kizzee … listened to rap music.” The tweet had been retweeted by 144 Twitter accounts, including a very popular and respected Twitter account with nearly a quarter million followers. Lord knows how many people saw the tweet. But the tweet was a lie. I watched the press conference and the description in question is not just unfair. It is not just opinionated. It is appallingly dishonest. It is a smear. The tweeter, and frankly everyone who amplified this tweet, owe it to the public to correct the record.
All I can do is write this post, put it on my little-trafficked blog, and publicize it on my little-trafficked Twitter account. I’m confident the truth won’t be spread as widely as the lie has been spread, by a longshot.
Here’s the dishonest tweet in question:
This thread, on the LA Sheriff's office presser about a recent killing by sheriffs, is important to read. It is a good example of how LEOs try to aggressively shape narratives and detest oversight.
Here: justifying a shooting bc Kizzee… listened to rap music. https://t.co/6EFYbOoZRu
— John Pfaff (@JohnFPfaff) September 18, 2020
I have watched the sheriff’s press conference, and you can watch it too, here. The relevant portion begins at 14:43 and ends at 15:56. It’s barely over a minute of video you have to watch to learn that John Pfaff is completely, utterly, 100% full of shit. The person presenting the video is Kent Wegener, the Captain of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
CAPT. WEGENER: This photo shows the pistol recovered at the scene. It was a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol loaded with fifteen live rounds.
CAPT. WEGENER: The final two videos were discovered on Kizzee’s cell phone and shows Dijon Kizzee armed with that same pistol a few days prior to the incident.
[Video plays of Kizzee displaying the firearm in his pocket, with a close-up of the back part of the gun including the grip and serial number.]
CAPT. WEGENER: We are able to read that serial number.
REPORTER: Is there any audio on that?
CAPT. WEGENER: There is.
REPORTER: Can you tell us what he’s saying?
CAPT. WEGENER: It’s a rap song, with a lot of F-bombs, and, uh, N-word being thrown around, so we decided not to play the audio.
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen. That is the entirety of the supposed attempt by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department “justifying a shooting bc [because] Kizzee… listened to rap music.” A Sheriff’s Captain played a video that proved that the firearm recovered at the scene had been shown in Kizzee’s possession days earlier, on a video found on Kizzee’s phone that showed the serial number. The Sheriff’s Department played the video without sound. A reporter asked if there was sound. The Captain replied there was. The reporter asked what the sound was. The Captain answered the question, indicating that they had made a decision not to play the sound on the video because it had a rap song with F-bombs and the N-word.
My question for John Pfaff and for everyone who retweeted this garbage or believed it is this: what was the Sheriff’s Department supposed to do??? Not play a video that proved that the suspect had previously possessed the exact firearm found at the scene, thus proving it was not planted? Play the video with the inflammatory rap song blaring? Refuse to answer the reporter’s question? I know you guys hate law enforcement, but do me a favor and put yourselves in the shoes of the most unfairly reviled profession in America, and tell me how you would have handled this better. Please, tell me!
It could be that John Pfaff didn’t watch the press conference and was misled by the fellow he was retweeting in this giant game of Twitter telephone: Scott Frazier, whose Twitter thread shows he did watch the press conference and live-tweeted it. Frazier’s thread is full of garbage, and I encourage the interested reader to watch the press conference and then compare what you saw with your own eyes to Frazier’s dishonest rendering of it. I will cite just one example, although I could cite many. Frazier says:
They are going on at length about pending charges Kizzee had. Irrelevant given Wagner also said the deputies didn't know who he was and only stopped him for a traffic violation.
— Scott Frazier (@safrazie) September 17, 2020
Capt. Wegener (whom Frazier calls “Wagner” for much of the thread) actually says he is not going to go through Kizzee’s rap sheet, and gives these details in response to questions. Begin at 18:06:
REPORTER: Where did he live? What was his residence?
CAPT. WEGENER: So, to say specifically where he was laying his head, I don’t have that information. I know —
REPORTER: Do you know where that video was shot?
CAPT. WEGENER: Uh, I have my suspicions but it’s not confirmed. I know that he frequented the Antelope Valley area. He had a criminal case pending out of Antelope Valley that involved an assault on deputies and bringing narcotics into the jail. That was scheduled for preliminary hearing I believe just two weeks ago. So, he was — he did have a domain up there in the Antelope Valley that he stayed at but I believe he also stayed in this neighborhood.
REPORTER: And I apologize, Captain: you spoke earlier about it, [unintelligible] — what was the felony for? What was his previous felony?
CAPT. WEGENER: Um, he’s had several. At this point I’m not going to go through his rap sheet.
REPORTER: But were they all in L.A. County or were they in other areas?
CAPT. WEGENER: They were all — all of the ones that we were concerned with were in L.A. County, and include firearms violations, narcotics violations …
Earlier in the press conference they mentioned that Kizzee was a felon and was the subject of a restraining order, and for both of those reasons he was not allowed to possess a handgun. That was the reason they mentioned those things: to establish that he was not a rightful possessor of a handgun under the Second Amendment. Scott Frazier would have you believe that they were just tossing out these facts randomly to smear Kizzee, but they established an important fact about his lack of a legal right to possess the handgun that he pulled on the deputies.
I’ll mention one more thing and then I’m done. Frazier — who keep in mind, is not John Pfaff, the original tweeter about whom I complained, but who was retweeted by Pfaff — does mention, further down his thread and in response to a question, the reason the Sheriff’s Department showed the video of him with a gun. Of course, he does so in the most tendentious manner possible:
They are videos from days prior to Kizzee’s murder, seized from his phone by police after his death, in order to build the case against him in the media.
— Scott Frazier (@safrazie) September 18, 2020
Unlike Pfaff’s original tweet mentioned at the head of this post, this is not a blatant lie. It is unfair and it is opinionated to the point of distortion, but it’s not a flat-out lie like Pfaff’s. So why do I mention it? Just to show that if Pfaff read the entire tweet thread (which he recommended, keep in mind), then he knew the real purpose of the videos even if he didn’t watch the press conference.
This was an incredible smear job. If you have read until the end, and especially if you have watched the press conference (or at least the snippets I recommended) you can see how badly the Sheriff’s Department was maligned here.
In a world where people walk up to a Sheriff’s patrol car and try to execute two deputies, in an environment where police are routinely not only smeared but dehumanized, this kind of dishonesty is not just reprehensible. It is dangerous. I hope the people who perpetrated and spread this smear will see my post and tweet and work to correct the record.