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Tracking misinformation about the Allen, Texas, mass shooting and response
Visitors to a makeshift memorial leave flowers May 8, 2023 in front of a large cross engraved with the words “Hope, Love, Allen” at an Allen, Texas, outlet mall where several people were killed May 6, 2023. (AP) Visitors to a makeshift memorial leave flowers May 8, 2023 in front of a large cross engraved with the words “Hope, Love, Allen” at an Allen, Texas, outlet mall where several people were killed May 6, 2023. (AP)

Visitors to a makeshift memorial leave flowers May 8, 2023 in front of a large cross engraved with the words “Hope, Love, Allen” at an Allen, Texas, outlet mall where several people were killed May 6, 2023. (AP)

By Michael Williams May 9, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • After the May 6 mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets, in which eight people were killed and eight were wounded, misinformation spread as the public awaited official details from police about the shooter’s identity and motivation.
     
  • Here are examples of falsehoods related to the shooting that occurred about 25 miles north of Dallas.

After any massive tragedy, it’s common for bad actors to take advantage of a void in verified information to spread falsehoods — and for well-meaning yet unwitting members of the public to amplify that false information.

The same happened after Saturday’s massacre at Allen Premium Outlets. In the days after the mass shooting, which killed eight people and wounded seven others, very little information has been shared by authorities and public officials.

The name of the 33-year-old shooter, who was killed by a police officer, was not officially released until more than 24 hours after the killings. Two days later, the public is left wondering what motivated him to stop his car in the middle of a parking row at the massive mall, calmly open his door, level his rifle toward families enjoying their Saturday shopping trip and open fire.

Here are a few examples of misinformation that have spread in the wake of the massacre in Allen:

No, Ted Cruz hasn’t shared the same tweet after every mass shooting

Every new mass shooting brings out anger about the perceived apathy of elected officials and the lack of any meaningful progress on legislation that might have prevented the tragedies.

After mass shootings in Texas, that anger is frequently aimed at Sen. Ted Cruz — but it’s partially amplified by tweets which falsely claim the senator uses the same tweet template after every mass-casualty tragedy.

"Disrespectful & shameful," read one tweet posted hours after the Allen shooting. "@tedcruz has duplicated the same tweet after every mass shooting in TX." Attached to the tweet was a screenshot purporting to show a dozen tweets from Cruz posted after mass shootings.

All tweets appear to follow the same template: "Heidi & I are fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in [CITY]. We are in close contact with local officials, but the precise details are still unfolding. Thank you to heroic law enforcement & first responders for acting so swiftly."

While Cruz did post that tweet after last May’s massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers, the notion that he copied and pasted the same tweet after shootings in New York, Sacramento, El Paso, Orlando and Pittsburg — as claimed by the viral tweet — is false.

The doctored screenshot which falsely claims Cruz tweets the same thing has frequently gone viral after mass shootings over the past year. The one posted after the shooting in Allen had 2.2 million views and more than 3,000 retweets as of Monday morning.

Twitter added a label debunking the tweet. After other people replied pointing out the information was false, the original poster was not demurred: "copy & paste here & some paraphrasing there doesn’t change the foundation of this post," she said.

The shooter was not an undocumented immigrant

After the shooter’s name was revealed on Sunday, many bad actors honed in on his Hispanic ethnicity and wondered whether he might have been undocumented.

"The shooter was likely a convict, and possibly an illegal alien and couldn’t legally own a firearm anyway!" one right-wing organization in Texas tweeted. "This wasn’t a gun problem- it’s an illegal alien, gang, drug use problem."

"Reports of the shooter have been circulating that the shooter was an illegal immigrant, but I CANNOT confirm this," tweeted another Twitter user to his 122,000 followers.

But the shooter was not undocumented — he was born in Dallas County in 1989, according to records obtained from the Texas Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Falsehood about shooter’s race, motivations draws views

Before the shooter was identified by authorities, one viral tweet falsely claimed he was Black. The tweet was posted by an account which frequently traffics racist and race-baiting ideas.

"Black killers bragging and filming their White victims in the Allen Texas mass shooting event," the tweet, which also contained a graphic video of the victims’ bodies, read. "The killer was heard yelling that the killing was Justice for Trayvon and that ‘all Whites must die.’" The tweet was later deleted, but a copy preserved by an online archive shows it had attained more than 500,000 views and 700 retweets just hours after it was posted.

The same account later posted a picture of a man lying on the ground — possibly a victim of the Allen shooting — claiming he was the shooter.

Twitter labeled the original tweet false, citing another video showing the shooter’s body. The shooter, Mauricio Garcia, was Hispanic.

No evidence shooter was a gang member

Other viral tweets honed in on the shooter’s ethnicity to spread unverified information about a potential affiliation with a gang or cartel.

"I Can help Wonder if he was cartel or working for them," read one tweet which had more than 476,000 views as of Monday morning. "CLOSE THE F------ BORDERS!" That account is a frequent poster of racist memes.

"The Allen Texas shooting was 50 minutes away from me and the shooter was a Hispanic gang member," read another tweet which had more than 4.6 million views as of Monday morning. "Likely tied to the cartel."

While little information has been publicly revealed about Garcia, there is no evidence he belonged to a gang or cartel. Garcia has no history of incarceration within the state prison system, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director of Communications Amanda Hernandez confirmed. He had an active misdemeanor warrant for drug paraphernalia in Garland from 2020, according to police records.

Federal authorities investigating the shooter’s motives are looking into whether he was interested in white supremacist ideology, according to The Associated Press.

 

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Tracking misinformation about the Allen, Texas, mass shooting and response