Justin Bieber's T-Town Hoax

The pop superstar said his computer was swiped in Tacoma, but there's reason to doubt it.

Last Wednesday, the day after he played to a sold-out crowd at the Tacoma Dome, Canadian teen sensation Justin Bieber published a couple of tantalizing tweets (sic all around):

"yesterday during the snow me and my tour manager josh had some stuff stolen. really sucks. people should respect other's property"

"i had a lot of personal footage on that computer and camera and that is what bothers me the most."

Along with joining celebrity-news watchers in wild speculation about what kind of footage would come out of the South Puget Sound heist, we in this newsroom greeted the tweets with equal parts that's-what-happens-in-Tacoma fatalism and hometown shame.

But that was all thrown into confusion on Friday, when a person claiming responsibility for the laptop caper tweeted a link to the "stolen footage": a fully produced music video featuring the Biebs and Nicki Minaj. Our excitement turned to indignation as it seemed clear that Bieber had smeared the name of Tacoma as part of a publicity stunt for his latest offering, and we said as much in an expletive-laden blog post.

"Did Bieber know this stunt would make a city already trying desperately to crawl out from underneath years of bad headlines and Hilltop drive-by shootings the butt of yet another crime joke?" we wrote. "Did he know people would instantly believe his story, simply because people outside of T-Town are always more than comfortable to believe the worst about the city? . . . Fuck you, Justin Bieber. Tacoma wants an apology."

At which point something really unexpected happened: We got a call from Bieber's management.

According to Scooter Braun, the pop star really did have a computer stolen from him in Tacoma, and the reason no police report could be located is that it had been filed under the name of his tour manager, Josh Williams. (Tacoma Police spokesperson Mark Fulghum confirmed that a police report was filed online using the name Josh Williams a little after 9 p.m. on October 10, claiming a laptop had been stolen.) Bieber's manager, irked by our post, classified the timing of the new music video as "making lemonade out of lemons": The video had already been made, but they tweaked it to play off the theft.

"Regardless of anything, I don't think a city should be judged by one idiot's actions," said Braun. "We had an incredible experience at that show in Tacoma. One of our dancers grew up in Tacoma. We've only heard good things, and had a great experience there and in Seattle. And we plan on coming back there . . . One idiot's decision to steal a computer in our offices won't affect how we feel about that city." 

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