The New York Post’s Michael Gartland has done more digging on the story of Wazn Miller. He is the teenager whose last moments the Newark mayor has relayed numerous times in paid speeches and on the stump, but a little fact-checking as well as the police report made public after NR sued Booker and the city of Newark revealed that Booker has taken considerable liberties with the story, inflating his own role and, it appears, outright fabricating certain details.
Here is Booker in 2007 remarks:
It seemed like a whirlwind was going on around me, so much was flashing through my mind as I sat there just trying to hold this child as his breathing stopped … The ambulance finally came, pushed me out of the way, ripped open his shirt where I now saw three gunshot wounds in his front, one in his side — and he was dead.
Here is Gartland:
Wazn Miller didn’t die in Booker’s arms — and while the then-34-year-old pol was there, he may have made matters worse. A woman was cradling the prone Miller when Miller’s friend David Estrada, 14 at the time, arrived.
“He came over and picked him up,” said Estrada, now 23. “A lot of people said, ‘You’re not supposed to move somebody after they get shot.’ The bullets might start moving around.”
Gilez Smith, 27, said he saw Miller struggling to live and described Booker’s heroics as a “ploy.”
“I told him, ‘Just leave him alone!’ ” Smith recalled. “He was like, ‘Breathe, breathe,’ smacking him all in the face . . . It was a big act.”
Miller “was still breathing” when medics put him in the ambulance, Estrada insisted.
The police report confirms Estrada’s account, not Booker’s. According to the document signed by Newark Detective Vincent Vitiello, Miller “expired from his injuries at University Hospital.”
NRO has taken issue with similar inconsistencies in Booker’s retelling of the tragic event; kudos to Gartland for tracking down witnesses.
Gartland also takes aim at several other stories that have become part of the Booker lore, among them, Booker’s drug-dealing pal T-Bone, whose existence NRO called into question after Rutgers University history professor Clement Price told us Booker conceded to him in 2008 the character was an “invention.” Garland tracked down a fellow resident of Brick Towers, the Newark housing complex where Booker lived when he claims to have met T-Bone:
“There was never a T-Bone,” said a 32-year-old former resident of Brick Towers, the former housing complex where Booker lived and where “T-Bone” supposedly plied his drug trade.
“There was a T, and there was a Bone from Prince Street,” he recalled. “T was in Brick Towers.”
T was bloodthirsty, his acquaintance recalled. “Booker and T didn’t have no run-in. If they did, Booker wouldn’t be walking around now,” he said.
Booker and his campaign are standing by his tall tale about T-Bone. Indeed, Booker is digging himself in deeper, telling NJTV’s Michael Aron not only that the charge is a “right-wing fabrication” but that, as a young man in Newark, he knew “literally hundreds” of drug dealers and that, when he became mayor, he held some sort of support meetings for them in his home and even allowed them to spend the night. What a guy.
Gartland also turns his attention to the superhero mayor’s actions in the wake of the 2010 blizzard that blanketed the northeast. Time chonicled how Booker and his staff personally shoveled streets and delivered diapers to a woman who was snowed in and couldn’t leave her home to purchase them. Gartland tracked her down:
Barbara Byers confirmed to The Post that Booker, in one of the more colorful accounts of his heroic, hands-on approach to governing, delivered Pampers to her home. But the press never questioned how she felt about it.
“I always found it weird that no one asked me about what happened,” she said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have diapers because I didn’t go shopping. It was two days later and nobody cleared our street.
“He’s a very nice man, but he isn’t a good mayor,” she added. “If he would have done his job, I would have been able to do for myself and gone out. It took three days for someone to come by with a plow the first time.”
Then there’s Booker’s eulogy to Newark education activist Judy Diggs. It really is worth watching the video, available in full here. Diggs, Booker told a crowd of Democrats at a fundraiser outside of Newark, “was out of the most artful and eloquent user of curse words I have ever met.” “She used them like you and I would probably use punctuation marks in a sentence,” he said, to raucus laughter. Diggs, Booker recounted, had also died “a poetic death”: reading to schoolchildren. Except that she didn’t. As I noted here and as Gartland notes in his piece, Diggs died in her office.
“It makes sense for him to go to Yale and to go to Summit and tell all these stories because he don’t have to answer the questions,” Tyree Diggs said. “If he says it here [in Newark], he has all kinds of questions to answer.”
Read Gartland’s piece in its entirety here.
It’s astonishing that Booker is now 15 years into his political career, and, largely through anecdotes we are now coming to see are full of holes, has amassed dozens of high-profile backers in Silicon Valley and around the country who fell in love with his “story.” Thanks also in part to these emotional anecdotes, he is now and set to become the junior senator from New Jersey. Maybe one of these days a prominent national political reporter will ask him about what increasingly looks like his troubled relationship with the truth.