BUTTE -- Butte Police Commissioner Bartholomew S. Harrington is a wanted man in these parts. Too bad neither the position nor the man exist.
A satirical story about Rob O'Neill posted on the Internet has prompted everyone from Associated Press reporters to Louisiana law enforcement officers to call local authorities for information.
Empire News posted a bogus article Monday titled "Bin Laden Shooter Rob O'Neill Mistakenly Attacked by Street Thugs Seeking To Collect Debt From Neighbor."
"Nothing in the story has a resemblance of truth," Butte-Silver Bow Undersheriff George Skuletich said Wednesday.
Skuletich does exist, for the record.
What is fabricated in the article includes: the police commissioner, five gang members seeking a drug debt and the Butte Daily Times. Also, O'Neill did not take down the intruders and brew a pot of coffee while awaiting backup.
"We've been getting all kinds of calls from across the country," Sheriff Ed Lester said.
The article has been making its rounds on social media sites. This prompted Snopes.com to label it false.
"Empire News is one of many fake news sites responsible for the frequent hoodwinking of Facebook users. Among previous hoaxes were a yarn about welfare recipients getting free cars, a claim that Colorado legalized meth and a widely shared story about pending 'snowmageddon,'" Snopes notes.
The piece claims that members of the Crips gang broke into the home of the former Navy SEAL and Butte native.
"We don't have established Bloods or Crips here," Lester added.
The story goes: "As the five thugs ran aimlessly through the home, Mr. O’Neill used silent hand-to-hand combat tactics to individually disarm them of their weapons. Once Mr. O’Neill had taken down the five men and secured his home, he brewed a pot of coffee and called the police station. Those boys sure did find the wrong house!”
While some might find the fake news piece amusing, local police are reminded of another hoax of a girl who reportedly shot intruders: An 11-year-old Butte girl was reported to have taken out two crooks. She was reportedly a clay-shooting champion in Butte who killed one man with a shot to the genitals and the other bled out.
That bogus story reappears about every year or so, Lester said.