News & Politics

Did You Fall for Any of These Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Texas Church Massacre?

Facebook screenshot of fake Devin Kelley account, with "Fake News" over it.

On Sunday, a gunman killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In the hours since, many false rumors have spread about the shooter, an alleged extra shooter, and victims of the attack.

Here are six conspiracy theories surrounding the massacre.

1. Antifa connections?

Shortly after the attack, many conspiracy theorists started peddling the idea that the alleged shooter, Devin Kelley, had connections to the leftist group Antifa. Here’s a video from Alex Jones:

https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones/status/927351480784388101

Mike Cernovich also suggested an Antifa connection.

https://twitter.com/Cernovich/status/927320224151539712

Authorities have discovered a great deal about Kelley, however, and his political leanings seem not to have inspired the attack. Kelley received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after he reportedly assaulted his wife and child. His mother-in-law attended the church he attacked on Sunday.

2. The Facebook page

Contrary to appearances, this is not Devin Kelley’s Facebook page.

Facebook screenshot of a page claiming to belong to Devin Kelley.

Facebook screenshot of a page claiming to belong to Devin Kelley.

BuzzFeed reported this Facebook page was fake. It was a public page, not a personal profile, and the page kept posting after news of the shooting broke (and while Kelley himself was dying after the chase). Facebook has since deleted the page.

3. Not a victim of the attack

Tragically, 26 people lost their lives in Sutherland Springs. This man was not among them, however.

https://twitter.com/ascarytoaster/status/927256174419988480

“Reviewbrah,” the man pictured in this photo, has a popular YouTube channel called “The Report of the Week” with more than 500,000 subscribers. In May, another Internet hoaxter claimed Reviewbrah was the victim of the shooting at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. The YouTube star released a video quashing the rumor.

NowThis Newsroom called “hoax” on this, and it likely is indeed a hoax.

4. “Sam Hyde”

A Democratic congressman bought into a 4chan hoax on Sunday, spreading the rumor that the shooter’s name was “Sam Hyde.”

“It was reported to me that he is actually not from this community. Apparently, his name was released as Sam Hyde,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) told CNN. “That was the name I was given.”

The real Sam Hyde co-founded the comedic troupe “Million Dollar Extreme” and has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. He once bragged about winning money on the political betting website PredictIt when Trump won the presidency. He also charged that Adult Swim canceled the second season of his show, “Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace,” due to his support for Trump.

Trolls on 4chan have smeared Hyde’s name over and over again, claiming that he was responsible for multiple mass shootings. CNN fell for the same prank in October 2015, pointing to Sam Hyde as a suspect in the Umpqua Community College shooting.

5. A second shooter — a communist revolution?

The conspiracy website YourNewsWire.com claimed that eyewitnesses saw a second shooter, and that the shooters draped an “Antifa” flag over the pulpit.

“yeah, there was 2,” the site quoted an unexplained source named “Brian cousin.” The site seemed to think that posting a screenshot of a text message exchange would add credibility to these claims, but the site did not identify the speaker or give any sign to prove this “Brian” was an eyewitness or a reliable source.

Brian texted, “talked to some people who were inside. they said two guys came in the back carrying guns, started screaming. ran to the front and draped ANTIFA flag over pulpit. Said this was communist revolution. pulled out copy of Das Kapital and demanded people quote specific sections.”

This account directly contradicts eyewitness accounts of the shooting. If this had actually occurred, authorities would not have had such a hard time determining the shooter’s motive.

6. Shooter was Muslim?!

https://twitter.com/Real_Assange_/status/927324184962678784

Fake news artists have pushed the idea that Devin Kelley converted to Islam and adopted the name “Samir Al-Hajeeda.” Not only is there no credible report that Kelley converted to Islam, but the “Samir Al-Hajeeda” meme also has a history. Earlier fake news also claimed the Las Vegas shooter converted to Islam and adopted the same name.

Some have called it “another version of Sam Hyde,” referencing the earlier fake news meme.

As news of horrific tragedies like the Las Vegas shooting and the Sutherland Springs shooting breaks, it is important for readers to be aware of misinformation and false reports. Even Google has come under fire for not burying fake news reports as the story broke, but when congressmen and CNN briefly lend credibility to such lies, it is reasonable for Google’s algorithms to take some time to catch up. As more and more details from the shooting emerge, careful readers will put fake memes to rest.

The world is too messed up as it is for conspiracy theorists to read Islam, communism, antifa, and other theories into an attack that had nothing to do with any of those things.