On August 15 2019, the conspiracy-oriented Facebook page “True News 4 U’s” shared a video (archived here) of police officers in Philadelphia purportedly spraying “fake blood” on themselves in the aftermath of a shooting.
In that context, the clip appeared with very little information, and the claims which did accompany it were strongly suggestive of the events it supposedly showed. One notable detail of the Facebook clip and others shared on social media is that audio — both of the television news segment and the person gesturing — was curiously missing. All clips were silent.
The footage seen in the broadcast came from reporting on a shooting in Philadelphia on August 14 2019, during which six police officers were wounded. CNN aired different video from the same standoff, but that footage did not include the portion seen in the viral clips.
Another version of the clip gained engagement sufficient to be tracked by the real-time viral content spotter Trendolizer on the morning of August 15 2019. Trendolizer’s page pointed to a YouTube video (“Police Officers Spray Fake Blood on themselves during Philadelphia Shooting 8/14/2019”), published on August 14 2019:
When the YouTube iteration was played at a slower speed, a brief station identification logo was visible in the lower right-hand corner of the screen — WPVI-TV. Yet another version of the same clip with the same description was racking up heavy engagement on Twitter:
All seemed to show the same WPVI-TV segment in which two police officers stopped in a crosswalk, retrieved a bottle, and dispensed an amount of dark reddish liquid. The contents of the bottle spilled onto the white of the crosswalk before one of the officers entered the passenger side of the cruiser and the other closed the door. The second officer dragged his foot through the pooling liquid, wiping some of it from the white-painted asphalt.
During the standoff, WPVI-TV shared live updates to Twitter. At 8:14 PM local time, the outlet reported that six officers had been wounded. An appended news article reported that in addition to the six wounded officers, others had been injured in the response to the shooting. Video on that page did have audio.
In one clip at the top of the page on August 15 2019, different bits of footage captured throughout the standoff appeared. In that clip, a brief portion of the “crosswalk” video was included, with narration different from the longer, live version. At the 4:15 mark, an anchor describes the two officers running to the cruiser, noting that one of the two had blood on his arm:
The scene with the bottle was not included, but the anchor noted the presence of blood on an officer’s arm as he approached the cruiser — not after the bottle was retrieved. The anchor stated the officer had blood visible on his arm and leg, and he was running to (not from) the cruiser.
Another of the page’s multiple videos was two minutes and 10 seconds long, and the officer in the “crosswalk” video is seen approaching the cruiser 41 seconds into the video. In that clip, the higher resolution enabled viewers to clearly see his forearm is covered in blood as he runs to the car, while he is on the sidewalk, and as he opens the cruiser door. The scene with the bottle is not included, and we did not see the footage of any of the other videos on the page.
Multiple iterations of the same video shared to social media claimed that police officers sprayed fake blood in a news video broadcasted by WPVI-TV on August 14 2019 during a standoff in which nine officers were injured, six of whom were shot. However, the clip was presented without audio, likely to mask the clarifying comments of news anchors. In adjacent footage, the same officer is seen running to the police cruiser with blood already across his forearm.
As for the liquid in the bottle, it is most likely a disinfecting solution such as Betadine (povidone-iodine, which can appear deep orange or red) or a treatment to hasten clotting pulled from what appears to be a belt trauma kit, hurriedly applied to an officer’s wounded arm while both men were standing behind a car door in order to protect themselves from bullets.