Fact Check: Was Billionaire Bill Gates Arrested This Week?

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was the focus of speculation online this week after the headline of a news story appeared to suggest he had been arrested in Nebraska.

The philanthropist is no stranger to unfounded conspiracy theories—most recently that he was funding efforts to "block the sun" from reaching Earth to reduce climate change and that he had once received computer lessons as a child from the singer Shakira.

The Claim

This week, Twitter users shared a news story stating a person named Bill Gates was detained by police regarding a "knife incident."

The article was headlined: "Bill Gates Arrested After Knife Incident in Nebraska." It started appearing on Twitter on March 12, with the most recent share being Monday, March 22.

The story was also shared on the news message board Fark.com on March 9, with the satirical headline: "Crazy Bill Gates arrested with knife and menacing to microchip helpful bystanders," referring to an online conspiracy theory that baselessly suggests Gates is behind a plot to implant microchips via the COVID vaccines.

A handful of Fark users jokingly linked the Microsoft co-founder to the arrest. One user wrote: "Fend off a knife attack or reinstall Windows ME?," making reference to the operating system released in 2000, also known as Windows Millennium Edition.

The Facts

The tweets linked to an article from the aggregator app News Break, which cited KCRR 97.7, a radio station serving Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Newsbreak and KCRR 97.7 articles were headlined "Bill Gates Arrested After Knife Incident in Nebraska."

The KCRR 97.7 article was published on March 11. The radio station's article cited local media outlet KLKN, which ran the legitimate story on March 9, 2021.

KLKN reported that a 39-year-old man identified as Willie Gates Jr. had been detained by officers from the Lincoln Police Department at about 1 a.m. March 9 and was accused of threatening to "cut" a 68-year-old woman with an 8-inch knife.

Also on March 9, the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper reported that Willie Gates Jr. had been arrested on suspicion of terroristic threats and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, citing law enforcement officer Luke Bonkiewicz.

A third local news outlet, KOLN, reported the suspect's full name as Willie L. Gates, Jr. and published a photo of his mugshot, citing the Lincoln Police Department.

Officer Luke Bonkiewicz said others intervened and wrestled the knife away from Willie Gates Jr. before officers got there. https://t.co/fKDv3X54XE

— Lincoln Journal Star (@JournalStarNews) March 9, 2021

News Break is a news aggregator with a mobile app available on the Google Play Store and iOS App Store markets. Its website says: "We surface the most impactful, most relevant news and information, wherever you live and work in the country."

Newsweek is a partner of News Break. Other partners include Samsung, CBS Local, Audible, The Boston Globe and "thousands" more, it says.

According to Crunchbase, a business and company directory, News Break is a "news aggregator that delivers relevant local news" based on artificial intelligence (AI).

On its post aggregated from radio station KCRR 97.7, News Break generated a picture of the billionaire Bill Gates at the bottom of the article, possibly an automated feature.

News Break has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

The Microsoft co-founder was, however, arrested by police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1977, reportedly following to a traffic violation. He was pictured smiling in his mugshot.

The Ruling


Billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates was not arrested regarding the incident in Nebraska. A man named Willie Gates Jr. was detained by officers from the Lincoln Police Department on March 9, 2021, and is facing multiple charges.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates is pictured on October 9, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France. The Microsoft co-founder has been the subject of a number of conspiracy theories. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts