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VERIFY: Yes, a Catholic priest visiting DC was injured, but his photo is spurring unfounded rumors

A photo of a man with a swollen right eye, identified by the Archdioceses of Washington as Father Thomas Haake, went viral. Here's what we've verified.

WASHINGTON — A viewer sent the Verify team a Facebook post, which alleges a Catholic priest in D.C. was attacked by "democrat backed BLM," and targeted specifically because of his faith. 

Our verify team found several iterations of that Facebook post online.

Some on social media single out Black Lives Matter protesters and include a photo of a man with a swollen black eye.

A viewer emailed the Verify team asking us to "please verify" its authenticity. 

"Several people have posted this story on FB in the last two days," the viewer said. "As a D.C. resident, I didn’t hear anything about it. Have you?”

QUESTION:

Does the viral photo really show Father Thomas Haake, a Catholic priest?

ANSWER:

Yes.

SOURCE:

Emma Restuccia: Archdioceses of Washington spokesperson 

PROCESS:

Our verify researchers contacted the Archdiocese of Washington, who confirmed that the photo is real. A spokesperson said Father Haake is a visiting priest serving in the Archdiocese of Washington for a few months. He’s been leading the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at a few parishes here.

Credit: Archdiocese of Washington
Photo of Fr. Thomas Haake courtesy of the Archdiocese of Washington

QUESTION:

Was Father Haake injured?

ANSWER:

Yes.

SOURCES:
Metropolitan Police Department police report

PROCESS:

Our Verify researchers obtained this police report from DC police, which says on June 9, 2020, Father Haake had a swollen right eye and was transported to a hospital.

Credit: Metropolitan Police Department
A screenshot of part of the incident report involving Father Thomas Haake on June 9


QUESTION:

Was Father Haake assaulted?

ANSWER:

It's still unclear what happened.

SOURCES:

Metropolitan Police Department police report

St. Peters Church of Capitol Hill statement

PROCESS:

According to a statement from St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill, Father Haake was assaulted.

"Fr. Thomas Haake, OMV (Oblates of the Virgin Mary) was recently assaulted on the streets of Southeast, Washington, DC," the church wrote in a statement online. "We are saddened that Fr. Haake, an out-of-town guest to our city and a friend of St. Peter's, suffered an assault. ....We are thankful that Fr. Haake was not seriously hurt and is doing well in body and spirit.  We will pass along the prayers and concern of many inquiring about Fr. Haake, and continue to pray for healing and justice in our country."

The police report, however, says Father Haake was walking at around 6:15 a.m. when he fell to the ground and hit his face on the sidewalk.

According to the police report, Father Haake said he woke up and his wallet and phone were missing and told officers he did not know how he got his injury.

As to the validity of allegations that Haake was assaulted by protesters or that this was religiously motivated, that's not something the Verify team can answer at this point.

So, if you see posts claiming that this was done by Black Lives Matter protesters, just know that currently there is no evidence to support this.

A DC police spokesperson told the Verify team they are investigating the details of this case.

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