As is the norm during the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States, a number of online hoaxes, hoax memes, fake news and conspiracy theories have surfaced online spreading misinformation during the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs shooting in Texas on November 5th.
Sadly, this deliberate misinformation has become just an inevitable as the shootings themselves. Below we outline some of the current misinformation that is circulating online right now about the Sutherland Springs shooting.
Attacker was an “Antifa Terrorist”
Another unfortunate trend we see during the direct aftermath of attacks such as this is various online trolls and conspiracy theorists (as well as purveyors of fake news) attempt to associate the perpetrator with various groups. In this case a number of fake stories have appeared from a variety of known fake news websites claiming the attacker – Devin Patrick Kelley – was an “Antifa terrorist”.
Popular purveyor of fake news YourNewsWire.com ran the headline “Texas Church Shooter Was Antifa Member Who Vowed To Start Civil War” which makes a number of unfounded claims including the assertion that Kelley draped an Antifa flag over the pulpit inside the church, that he forced members of the church to recite certain lines from the Bible before killing them and that he shouted he was staging a “communist revolution”. The site also claims that there were two, not one, gunmen.
However, these claims are wholly unsubstantiated and offer no evidence to support them. Authorities, at the time of writing, have not stated that Kelley was associated with Antifa, and no witnesses that have been interviewed have corroborated any of these claims.
Also, a number of fake Facebook profiles have appeared that include images of what they claim is Kelley’s Antifa flag, with the aim of attempting to associate Kelley with the far-left group. However the admin of the Facebook page Anitfa United has since claimed that the image of the flag is from their shop, and as such did not belong to Kelley.
We discuss this in more detail here.
Sam Hyde; suspected lone wolf gunman
Online trolls have been using the name and photo of online comedian Sam Hyde during the aftermath of several mass shootings in the United States claiming Hyde to be the suspected gunman, and the Sutherland Springs shooting is no different.
Photos of Hyde have been circulated along with the claim that Hyde has been confirmed as the gunman. This also happened after the San Bernadino shooting, the Orlando shooting and the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas massacre. Some versions of this hoax falsely claim Sam Hyde had converted to Islam and is now known as Samir Al-Hajeed.
A congressmen even fell for the hoax and mentioned Sam Hyde’s name during a CNN interview.
However the actual gunman has been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley.
We discuss this hoax in more detail here.
Other misinformation claimed that the shooter was named Chris Ward but this was soon dismissed.
Fake missing people
Online trolls will frequently circulate photos of popular YouTube stars, claiming them to be people at the site of a mass shooting and currently missing.
For example, the below photo is often spread along with the claim that he is missing. His photo spread during the aftermath of the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas shooting and the Manchester Concert bombing, but is actually a YouTube star called ReviewBrah who operates the channel TheReportOfTheWeek.
He has nothing to do with the shooting at Sutherland Springs (or any of ther other attacks he’s been linked to.)
Shooter was atheist, on the DNC payroll and called Raymond Peter Littleberry
A fake news site known as FreedumJunkshun.com falsely claimed that the shooter was called Raymond Peter Littleberry, an atheist who was on the DNC payroll. However this site is a known fake news “satirical” website, and none of the details are correct.
The site has a footer that exposes its content as fake in a disclaimer.