Not Entirely Sure How I Feel About This...

I saw a news report the other day:

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A U.S. Marine reservist collecting toys for children was stabbed when he helped stop a suspected shoplifter in eastern Georgia.

Best Buy sales manager Orvin Smith told The Augusta Chronicle that man was seen on surveillance cameras Friday putting a laptop under his jacket at the Augusta store.

When confronted, the man became irate, knocked down an employee, pulled a knife and ran toward the door. Outside were four Marines collecting toys for the service branch’s “Toys For Tots” program.

Really, that’s probably where said shoplifter should have put down his loot and put up his hands. But, no…

Smith said the Marines stopped the man, but he stabbed one of them, Cpl. Phillip Duggan, in the back. The cut did not appear to be severe.

The suspect was transported to the local hospital with two broken arms, a broken leg, possible broken ribs, assorted lacerations and bruises he obtained when he fell trying to run after stabbing the Marine.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was held until police arrived. The Richmond County Sheriff’s office said it is investigating.

Now, normally I would not chuckle at a case of vigilante justice, but still at the back of my mind I cannot help but think, “you stabbed a fricking marine! What did you expect?!”

However you feel about this story, though, you do need to be aware that, while there are elements of truth in it, it has very quickly slipped into the realm of urban legend, as ably demonstrates. It has started to make the rounds in e-mail chains, with the incident changing locations, names changed and, most importantly, some key details exaggerated.

The truth is, in Atlanta, Georgia, a man named Tracey Attaway was spotted at a local Best Buy lifting a laptop. When confronted, he did pull a knife. Trying to escape, he did run into a bunch of Marines who were running a Toy-For-Tots program, and he did stab one of them in the back. The marine was treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Mr. Attaway was taken into custody, but without the broken bones. The Marines acted with considerable restraint. But, clearly, their reputation was too much of an opportunity for a comedy writer somewhere who inserted the paragraph about Attaway’s injuries, creating this urban legend.

Oh, well. It made me smile, at least. And, strangely, it makes me smile even more knowing it’s not wholly true.

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