A day after it deemed Josh Shaw a hero, USC backtracked on the story.
The sports and social-media world were set abuzz Monday when USC published on its website a heroic story about cornerback Josh Shaw saving a nephew in distress.
But the narrative took a turn Tuesday when USC Coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters the school had received calls questioning the veracity of the story and that the school was investigating.
“We’re going to continue to vet it and we’re looking at it,” Sarkisian said after practice. USC announced Monday that Shaw suffered two ankle injuries after he leaped from a second-floor balcony during a family function in Palmdale to save his nephew, who could not swim.
The story included statements from Shaw: “I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew,” and Sarkisian: “That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside.”
After Tuesday’s practice, with cameras from sports, news and entertainment television shows present, Sarkisian said he would answer questions about the team and then address the Shaw story. Sarkisian began by saying that Shaw was a “a good person. He’s a good kid,” and that “I have no reason, no history to not believe Josh and his story.”
But he did not say that the story was true or false.
“I only know what I know, and Josh is adamant with what occurred and we’ll continue to vet some of the other stories that have come across our desk and across our phones,” Sarkisian said. Sarkisian declined to identify who had called the school.
On Monday, USC officials had told reporters that Shaw would be made available to the media Tuesday. But Shaw was absent from practice and was not made available to reporters. Shaw participated in USC’s annual “Salute to Troy” event that was held Saturday on campus.
USC officials learned of Shaw’s injuries and his story on Sunday, said Tim Tessalone, USC’s sports information director.
“Numerous people checked and vetted his story in various ways,” Tessalone said. “We felt it was solid.”
Tessalone said Shaw was asked repeatedly about his story again Monday and Tuesday and said that he stood by his story.
USC athletic department officials spent much of Tuesday huddled in the McKay Center while rumors swirled on social media.
Meantime, the Los Angeles Police Department said Shaw's name came up in a report filed by officers who responded to a call about a woman heard screaming at the Orsini Apartments at 505 N. Figueroa St. on Saturday night.
Lt. Andrew Neiman, a department spokesman, said officers forced entry into one apartment but found no one inside. They then interviewed witnesses at the apartments who reported seeing a man scampering across third-floor balconies and provided a general description of the individual. Later, as officers were talking to a woman, “She responded to a description with words to the effect, 'That sounds like my boyfriend, Josh Shaw,' ” Neiman said.
Another police source said the woman added that Shaw was out to dinner with friends.
A man at the front desk of the Orsini Apartments Tuesday evening said Josh Shaw was not a registered resident.
Times staff writers Gale Holland and Richard Winton and correspondent Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.