I don't usually add a prologue to my posts, but this one is unique. It deals with facts, questions, and doubts, and strong emotions about the case of Allen Goin, a Caucasian kid in a mostly Black high school in Kansas City who received burns in an incident in front of his home that has become a national issue, in part because the lack of media attention for this apparent hate crime is in sharp contrast with the media storm over the killing of Trayvon Martin.
My goal is to get out the facts and deal with lingering questions so as to get to the bottom of what happened here. I've been driven by outrage, curiosity, and suspicion, but it's important to remain as objective as possible, while remaining respectful and courteous to commenters and those who are involved in this story.
I feel that the best way to do that is to leave the story in a "chronological format" (i.e, leave it up as it was written instead of making changes as the story went on). That, to me, is more honest, and it also shows those late to the story how it has played out.
The upshot of this is that if your goal is to seek information, then you need to read all the way through, including the comments, where much of the information has been revealed. Reading half runs the risk of presenting only half the story. My apologies if that sounds like homework.
ORIGINAL POST (updates follow):
I first started reading about this case
on various conservative-leaning websites, where it has been offered up as an antidote to all the media coverage about the killing of Trayvon Martin
, the teenager in Florida killed by an apparently trigger-happy Neighborhood Watch volunteer who had muttered to the 911 dispatcher something about "fuckin' coons
" minutes before he shot young Mr Martin in supposed self-defense, after which the cops let him go.
The case of Allen Coon
(yeah, go figure) in Kansas City, they complained, was just as bad but was getting very little press and there were still no arrests. I think the idea of two Black kids grabbing a White kid and "dousing
" him with gasoline and then setting him on fire is outrageous and, if things happened the way we were told, clearly a hate crime. (Allen Coon's name sometimes appears in the media as Allen Goin.) [UPDATE
: His actual name is Allen Goin, which is what the news media said, not Allen Coon, which is what many of the blogs were saying.]
But then when I started looking into the story, I noticed
from television news reports that young Allen's skin was remarkably free of burn marks, for someone who had been "doused" with gasoline and then had his head set on fire. What I'd imagined was a horribly disfiguring incident had left him, according to reports
, with little more than first-degree burns (i.e., redness) on his face. Wow, that's incredibly lucky, my skeptical self said to myself.
But then I saw this picture, taken from the Justice for Allen Coon
Facebook page, and I thought I should reserve any snark and doubt for after the investigation. That kid looks pretty messed up.
In fact, I first saw the picture here
, a site that explains how so many (supporters and detractors alike) are getting the story wrong. And while he didn't go so far as to say the story was a hoax, I noticed that in the news video of the story, Allen Coon's singed eyelashes at 0:49 don't quite look like the eyelashes in the Facebook picture. He also looks a bit older than someone who'd be Allen Coon's age.
And so I did a Google image search. It turns out, the picture of the messed-up burn victim is from stories of desperate Afghan women committing self-imolation, in 2010
. See here
, and here
, for example, or here
from 2011. This Afghanistan forum
shows it in May 2009.
After further investigation, the earliest usage of the photo I found it was here
, and here
in September 2008.
So just what is the "Justice for Allen Coon" Facebook page doing pretending that an Afghan burn victim is Allen Coon? That smells very fishy. Is it that the actual burns suffered by Allen Coon are not that severe and, if so, that it undermines the claims he and his mother have made? (Go read the link in the fifth paragraph for why she would be motivated to do so; if it is a hoax, it may be that Allen Coon was genuinely the victim of racial harassment in his school, but this cockamamy plan was hatched in order to prove a point that would thus be hopelessly discredited.)
Oh, and to the people behind the "Justice for Allen Coon" Facebook page (I think it's his mother Melissa), I've saved a copy of the page, just in case you decide to change the photo to something else.
UPDATE (8 a.m., HST, Tuesday, March 27, 2012):
For starters, here
is a link to the Kansas City, Missouri, police report. Odd that they didn't take the gas container in to test for fingerprints.
Meanwhile, the plot thickens. After I posted this, the opnat-eye updated their site
to highlight the photo hoax. Shortly after that, the Justice for Allen Coon FB page removed the hoax photo and left the one with the scales (which had been there before, but not as a profile pic). Above "update" you can see the original and just below you can see what it now looks like. (I also saved an actual archive file of the original page; screen shots are easy to fake, but altering the code of an archived page is far above my pay grade.)
Their site had also been linked to on the Justice for Allen Coon Facebook page by one Annabeth Milosevic, though the link has since been taken down. What's interesting is that after I posted about the photo hoax and left a link at opnat-eye, someone claiming to be "melissa coon" came along and denied
being the "Melissa" running the Justice for Allen Facebook page:
I am the mother of Allen Goin not Coon as the media portrays. i am not sure who has been setting up fake pics and pretending to be me. but it is unfair and sad the nation portrays us this way. please contact me 8168782582 if any questions or contact the local kcpd and they can forward the message
Having been the victim of attackers who posted messages while posing as me and even hacking into my blog and getting it shut down for a couple weeks, I am sympathetic to her claim. However, for several reasons, I don't think it holds water. [UPDATE
: Despite the following three paragraphs, it appears I was wrong that Melissa of the Facebook page and Melissa the mother were the same person. That comes out in the comments section, but since not everyone reads that far, I wanted to make it clear here.]
First, the timing of "melissa coon's" appearance at opnat-eye and the removal of the hoax photo is in such a narrow window of time that it seems a very unlikely coincidence. Not impossible but not likely.
Secondly, the Facebook page owner also being named Melissa — and making no effort to explain on the Facebook page, until the photo hoax was revealed, that she was a different Melissa — is another odd coincidence that is not impossible but also not terribly likely. Moreover, Justice for Allen Coon Facebook page owner Melissa would have us believe she is merely an interested third party
who just has a thirst for justice, but she had been referring to "we" as if she is directly associated with Allen Coon.
And that leads to the third thing. The motivation in putting up a site would be to see justice done (i.e., getting these would-be murderers arrested and punished), but the Melissa running the Facebook page also sets out to get someone fired
who was not involved with the gasoline immolation attack.
sounds much more like the actions of an angry mother who feels her kid is being repeatedly harassed by students and teachers alike based on his race. In fact, we've seen the real-world Melissa single out Karla Dorsey
just like the Justice for Allen Coon Facebook page owner Melissa did:
The boy raised his hand, eager to answer the question. "What would you know about it?" exclaimed the teacher dismissively. "You're not our race."
This was not dialogue from a Hollywood movie. According to a woman named Melissa Coon, it was what a teacher at East High School in Kansas City told her 13-year-old son, Allen, when he attempted to answer a question during Black History Month. Coon identifies that teacher as Mrs. Karla Dorsey, who is black; Allen is white.
As has already been reported, Allen was a victim of a vicious racial attack last week in which two older black teens doused him with gasoline and set him alight, saying, "This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy." Not surprisingly, Coon has pulled her son out of East High and, concerned about further racial violence, intends to leave the K.C. area.
Again, not impossible that there are two completely different Melissas and that the Facebook one is just doing what the real-world one would want done, but it's also terribly unlikely. (Fake posters typically do malicious things, not act as genies trying to grant your wishes for you.)
So, we have the real Melissa Goin (not Coon, though FB Melissa never uses a last name) claiming she's not Facebook Melissa, but Facebook Melissa put up an incendiary picture purported to be Allen Coon in an effort to gain sympathy for the cause, while also trying to get fired a teacher the real-world Melissa wants to see gone. She also wants, as she says repeatedly in news interviews, for a ticket to another school system.
And that's why all these improbably coincidences add up to this looking like
a hoax. I believe Allen Coon really has been bullied or harassed by other kids, and that a lot of it has direct racial overtones. That is terrible and should not be tolerated, but it sounds like someone really tried to underscore that point by fabricating an incident whose nature had not occurred, even though it was feared.
If that is the case, I hope they come clean. Desperation makes people do some extreme things and this has — so far — not yet gotten to the point of no return, like where an innocent person is arrested. Though they would deserve some sanction, I would be very vocal in standing up for them, because of that desperation for which Allen Coon is almost certainly not the cause.
(I want to add a parenthetical comment about race-based abuse. Kushibo, as you may or may not know, is straight out of Compton, but not Black. In my nearly all-Black elementary school, I was harassed and occasionally hit, and it may have had a racial component to it. But Black kids also experienced bullying, and when we moved to mostly-White Orange County, harassment and physical assault still occasionally occurred — in fact the physical stuff was worse than before. See, kids like to ostracize and bully and crap like that, and racial or ethnic differences gives them an easy excuse for doing so. But in the absence of racial or ethnic differences, some other pretext is used, like nerdiness, shortness, haughtiness, etc. This is not to make light of race-based bullying, which needs to be gone from our schools, but nobody has a monopoly on this, either as victim or perpetrator.)
UPDATE 2 (4 p.m. HST, same day):
Basically, go read the comments section. The improbable is apparently the reality, and one Melissa Barber says she is the Melissa who set up the Justice for Allen Coon FB page and is responsible for posting the fake picture.
UPDATE 3 (6 p.m. HST, March 31, 2012):
Because there are those who insist that the hoax photo represents the extent of Allen Goin's actual burns, I've decided to print still shots from news video taken shortly after the attack. Note that his hands show no signs of burns, which would be nearly impossible if he pulled a gasoline-soaked shirt over his head while his head were completely on fire.
Note also that his eyebrows are singed but not completely gone. Lightly singed hair does not indicate one's head was on fire. His surrounding skin barely even shows signs of the first-degree burns (redness comparable to a sunburn) that he reportedly received.
In fact, that skin color is very close to that of his father, who did not suffer any kind of burn at all.
From this news site
, a glimpse of his mother and his younger sibling (which belies apologists for the hoax photo who say maybe they couldn't depict a minor in the news story; he was shown staring right into the camera for some seconds, but I decided to obscure his appearance).
Note that the story also says he was home the next day, hardly characteristic of a severe burn victim who had "gasoline poured on his head" and set on fire (the reporter notes he's was in the burn unit "for a few hours" and was lucky to be home so early and even lucky to be alive).
Take all this for whatever it's worth.
UPDATE 4 (11 a.m. HST, April 3, 2012):
Because of a load of misinformation out on the Interwebs, I have decided to print out the actual police report of the incident
. Notice that there is no mention whatsoever
about the alleged attackers have said a racial epithet of any kind. Either that was added later or it was something the police were told but they deliberately left it out:
Upoon arrival I detected the odor of gasoline and made contact with V1 who stated he observed S1 & S2 follow him home from the stadium located at East High School. When he arrived at his residence he attempted to unlock the front door when S1 prevented him from entering by "bear hugging" V1. V1 stated S2 then grabbed a red gas can, filled with gasoline, and stated "This is what you get."
S2 then produced a lighter and as he tried to light the can on fire he dropped it on the ground spilling gasoline on the ground. S2 was then successful lighting the gasoline which produced a large fireball burning the face and hair of V1. S1 & S2 were last seen running north on Quincy Ave.
V1 stated S1 was a black male wearing a blue hat, blue jacket, and blue shoes with the number 23 on the side. S2 was a black male with a blue hat, black jacket, and glasses. V1 stated both males had facial hair.
I observed a red plastic one gallon container lying on the ground near the chairs leading to the front door of 2222 Quincy Ave. O1 stated he was the owner of the container and that it was left outside on the porch. I observed what appeared to be burns on V1's face along with singed hair. V1 complained of pain to his face and was transported by ambulance to Children's Mercy for medical treatment. While the injuries sustained by V1 were non-life threatening the paramedic and EMT believed he suffered from 1st degree burns.
Due to V1's injuries I notified dispatch to initiative a cascade for the suspects.
O1 is V1's father and stated he wanted to prosecute for assault.
Sgt. Rothert R310A, Detective Nelson, and Detective Taylor from Assault Squad were notified and responded to the scene. Detective Majors from Crimes Against Children was notified from the scene.
Digital photos of V1 and the crime scene were captured using the department's issued digital camera and were placed in the Assault's Squad folder.
/s/ PO Hutchinson 5409
This report, if accurate, does not support the oft repeated description that Allen Goin was "doused with gasoline" or that his head was lit on fire. It specifically dismisses the idea that these were life-threatening injuries and it gives no indication that they were disfiguring (assuming singed hair grows back). In fact, the description that he suffered 2nd degree burns on his nose (the most serious injury I've seen reported in the news) is not supported here (but it is possible the EMTs and the paramedic were wrong that his burns were only first degree).
UPDATE 5 (11 p.m. HST, April 5, 2012):
This would be laughable were it not so serious. The Allen
Goin case is gaining some traction on conservatives sites where it is being used as a banner for those who believe the media that couldn't care less about White crime victims and only raises concerns about "hate crime" if a Black is the victim.
And in order to make Allen the equivalent of Trayvon, the exaggeration of his injuries must be maintained. Or, in this case
, ratcheted up:
Allen Coon, a student in the predominately black East High School in Kansas City was recently doused with gasoline and set on fire by two older black teenage boys who followed him home from school, apparently to the taunt: “You get what you deserve, white boy!”
Although Coon survived, it is believed he may lose his eyesight. Meanwhile, despite the overt racial component to the crime, local police are investigating to determine IF the incident might correctly be labeled a hate crime, while failing to include Coon’s full statement, i.e. “white boy,” in their incident report.
In other words: "Oh, dear God! The kid may go blind! I came to that idea after reading over-hyped but under-factual accounts of his attack and I took it to the next logical step!"
Seriously, the only ones in danger of going blind from this masturbatory exercise in media distortion are those who willingly close their eyes to anything other than the incendiary narrative that suits their purposes.
As for the police who "failed" to include the "white boy" taunt in their incident report, commenter Steven Milledge cites
a Kansas City radio program that interviewed Allen Goin's mother
, Melissa Coon, in which she states that her son didn't mention the "white boy" comment to the police but that he told her later at the hospital (audio here
If true, that is odd that he would not reveal that kind of information, particularly when the police at the time (?) said they would look into it as a hate crime.