On July 18 2022, a video titled “Store clerk passes out. Customers rob store instead of helping him” was shared to Reddit’s r/PublicFreakout:
Although the footage bore two watermarks (from ABC News and the Auburn, Washington Police Department), the post’s submitter did not link to any sort of news story validating the title’s claim. On the same day, the clip circulated around on Twitter — sometimes accompanied by commentary implying that Seattle was chaotic or lawless:
WA STATE: A store clerk collapsed due to medical reasons, and instead of helping the clerk, a group of bystanders robbed him.‘Store Clerk Passes Out, Gets Robbed’ Seattle Video‘Store Clerk Passes Out, Gets Rob...
This is the Seattle area in a nutshell.pic.twitter.com/5LviLfjwBc
— Katie Daviscourt🇺🇸 (@KatieDaviscourt) July 18, 2022
On Twitter, the clip attached to the tweet was credited to another account. It displayed a view count of more than a million as of July 19 2022, and it was originally shared by the first account on July 17 2022.
That tweet also was video-only, and its text read:
Store Clerk Collapses Due To Medical Reasons, Bystanders Rob The Place Instead Of Helping Him Out!
A separate tweet by yet another account on July 18 2022 addressed the clip, pointing out that that the video was from 2018. They also described the incident as occurring in Auburn (a suburb of Seattle), not in Seattle proper.
That account actually came with citations, sharing a news link alongside screenshots of the claim:
This incident that local right wing media is trying to generate outrage over, happened in Auburn in 2018, over 4 years ago.
— Alycia Ramirez (@AlyciaRamirez3) July 18, 2022
A link in that tweet led to a September 2018 news article by Tacoma-area news outlet KCPQ with the headline, “Two teens arrested in Auburn burglary in which clerk collapsed.” It reported that two teenagers were identified and charged in connection with the filmed incident:
Auburn police have now arrested two teens who stepped over a store clerk who collapsed from a medical emergency and then stole money from the cash register.
Both were officially charged this week [of September 27 2018].
The teen arrested [on September 27 2018] in Tacoma is 13 years old and has been charged with Burglary 2nd Degree … The other suspect is 17-years-old and has been charged with Burglary 2nd Degree and Theft in the 1st Degree.
KCPQ also had a link to a September 11 2018 article about the incident (“Auburn Police ID suspects who stole from store while clerk suffered medical emergency”), which reported:
The teens who walked in and out of a convenience store multiple times to steal money and items while a store clerk was passed out and suffering from a medical emergency have been identified, Auburn Police said.
Police said they have also identified the adult who was in the store when the clerk first fell to the ground and failed to call 911.
The clerk is in critical condition and in a medically induced coma after the caught-on-camera incident, which happened at about 5:40 p.m. on [September 8 2018 in Auburn] … Police have not released the adult’s name or said whether he will be charged with a crime. It’s unclear what charges, if any, the teenagers will face in connection with the incident.
In July 2022, video of a “store clerk in Seattle” being robbed after he collapsed in a medical incident spread on Twitter and Reddit. The clip was filmed in Auburn (not Seattle), and the incident was in 2018 (not 2022). The most popular variations did not link this to contextual information, nor did it clarify that a 13-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy were arrested the same month the incident occurred — making it easy to co-opt and reappropriate this video for weaponized messaging purposes.