After every massive tragedy, it is common for bad actors to take advantage of a vacuum in verified information to spread falsehoods, and for well-meaning but unwitting members of the public to amplify that false information.
The same happened after Saturday’s massacre at the Allen Premium Outlets. In the days following the mass shooting, which killed eight people and injured seven others, very little information was shared by authorities and public officials.
The name of the 33-year-old shooter, killed by a police officer, was not officially released until more than 24 hours after the killings. Two days later, the audience wonders what motivated him to stop his car in the middle of a parking row at the huge mall, calmly open the door, aim his shotgun at the families enjoying their shopping spree of Saturday and open fire.
Here are some examples of disinformation that spread in the wake of the Allen massacre:
Each new mass shooting brings up anger at the perceived apathy of elected officials and the lack of any meaningful progress on legislation that could have prevented the tragedies.
After the mass shootings in Texas, that anger is often directed at Senator Ted Cruz, but it’s partially magnified by tweets that falsely claim that the Senator uses the same tweet template after each mass tragedy.
“Disrespectful and shameful,” read a tweet posted hours after Allen’s shooting. “@tedcruz he duplicated the same tweet after every mass shooting in TX. Attached to the tweet was a screenshot purporting to show a dozen of Cruz’s tweets posted after the mass shootings.
All the tweets seem to follow the same pattern: “Heidi and I are fervently lifting children and families up in prayer during the horrific shooting in [CITY]. We are in close contact with the local authorities but the precise details are still being developed. Thank you to the heroic law enforcement and first responders for acting so quickly.”
While Cruz posted that tweet after last May’s massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers, the idea that he copied and pasted the same tweet after the shootings in New York, Sacramento, El Paso, Orlando and Pittsburg – as claimed by the viral tweet – is fake.
The doctored screenshot falsely claiming Cruz tweets the same thing has often gone viral following mass shootings over the past year. The one posted after the Allen shooting had 2.2 million views and over 3,000 retweets as of Monday morning.
Twitter has added a tag that unmasks the tweet. After other people responded by pointing out that the information was false, the original poster was not criticized: “Copying and pasting here and a few paraphrases there don’t change the foundation of this post,” she said.
Before the shooter was identified by authorities, a viral tweet falsely claimed he was black. The tweet was posted by an account that often traffics racist and racist ideas.
“Black killers brag about and film their white victims at Allen Texas mass shooting event,” the tweet read, which also contained a graphic video of the victims’ bodies. “The killer was heard screaming that the killing was justice for Trayvon and that ‘all white people must die.'” after it was published.
The same account later posted a photo of a black man lying on the ground — possibly a dead victim of Allen’s shooting — claiming he was the shooter.
Twitter labeled the original tweet as fake, citing another video showing the shooter’s body. The killer, Mauricio Garcia, was Hispanic.
Other viral tweets refined the shooter’s ethnicity to spread unverified information about a potential gang or cartel affiliation.
“I can help wondering if he was a cartel or working for them,” read a tweet that had more than 476,000 views Monday morning. “CLOSE THE F—— BORDERS!” That account is a frequent poster for racist memes.
“The Allen Texas shooting was 50 minutes away from me and the killer was a Hispanic gang member,” read another tweet that had more than 4.6 million views Monday morning. “Probably related to the cartel.”
While little information about Garcia has been publicly revealed, there is no evidence that he belonged to a gang or cartel. Garcia has no history of serving in the state prison system, Texas Department of Criminal Justice communications director Amanda Hernandez confirmed. He had an active felony warrant for drug paraphernalia in Garland as of 2020, according to police records.
Federal authorities investigating the shooter’s motives are examining whether he was interested in white supremacist ideology, according to the Associated Press.