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Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero March 31, 2023

Footage does not show that Nashville, Tennessee, shooter swapped shoes

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  • Nashville, Tennessee, police released two videos of the shooter — one from closed-circuit television cameras and the other from body cameras. Viewing the entirety of those videos shows that the shooter was wearing the same shoes.

After a 28-year-old entered a Nashville school March 28 and gunned down six people, three of them children, police publicly released footage showing some of how the incident unfolded.

But some people falsely suggested the video provided evidence the mass shooting was staged. Their proof? The shooter’s shoes.

"What appears to be different pants and shoes on in the two videos released almost immediately to the public… I’m gonna let you tell me what your thoughts are?" read the caption on a March 29 Instagram video in which a woman pointed out what she said were inconsistencies in what the shooter was wearing in one image to the next. "False flag? Training exercise? Set up to push gun control? Or a tragic occurrence with a ton of coincidental happenings?"

"Can someone please tell me I’m a crazy conspiracy theorist and offer a perfectly normal explanation as to why the Nashville shooter had one pair of shoes on when they walk in and a different pair on when they are killed?" another person wrote on Twitter on March 28.

The Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

So, was there some strange changing of the shoes in the middle of this shooting? No. And there’s no evidence this tragedy was staged either.

A false flag is an incident that’s designed to look like it was perpetrated by one person or party, when in fact it was committed by someone else. One common and unfounded claim following mass shootings is that they are false flags devised by governments seeking to enact gun control laws. We’ve seen these claims following nearly every major mass shooting in recent memory.

The shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School took the lives of three 9-year-old students, the head of school, a janitor and a substitute teacher. The attacker was killed by police on scene.

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Nashville police released two videos of the incident: one was closed-circuit television footage from the Covenant School, and the other is a merged video of body camera footage from two police officers.

The attacker’s shoes as they are seen on the closed-circuit television camera footage appear to be black and white, while the ones seen on the body camera footage appear to have a flame design. 

The body cam video provided a closer view of the shoes. A search through Google Lens showed a Vans shoe with the same flame design and single white stripe.

But closed-circuit television footage can be difficult to interpret. A briefing paper from the University of South Wales identified challenges, like issues with lighting or grainy resolution, when using closed-circuit television during homicide investigations. The professors who wrote it said they found numerous examples of misinterpretations of poor-quality closed-circuit television images, including those that occur when closed-circuit television images are compared against other images. 

Viewing the entirety of the two videos showed that the shoes were similar. The same white stripe can be seen at the 1:51 timestamp of the closed-circuit television footage, and the Vans logo at the rear of the shoes can be seen at the 1:58 timestamp.

We reached out to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department about the claim in these videos. It said iut had already debunked this claim: Brooke Reese, a Metropolitan Nashville Police Department spokesperson, told USA Today that there is no evidence the shooter changed shoes during the attack, and that the claim that the shooting was a false flag operation had no validity. 

Other fact-checkers similarly debunked the notion of two sets of shoes, noting that the closed-circuit television video is low quality, captured under artificial light and digitally compressed.  

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Instagram post, March 29, 2023

Tweet, March 28, 2023

Tweet, March 28, 2023

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, CCTV footage, released March 27, 2023

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Body camera footage, released March 28, 2023

University of South Wales, The use of CCTV during homicide investigations: Contributions, challenges and risks, April 2020

Phone interview, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, March 30, 2023

USA Today, Fact check: Baseless 'false flag' conspiracy theory on Nashville shooting circulates online, March 30, 2023

France 24, Nashville school shooting: Conspiracy theories emerge on shooter's shoes, March 29, 2023

Newsweek, Fact Check: Was Nashville shooter's body wearing different shoes?, March 29, 2023

PolitiFact, False flags: They’re real, but far less widespread than social media suggest, Feb. 8, 2022

PolitiFact, Why do some people think mass shootings are staged every time?, Aug. 8, 2019

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Footage does not show that Nashville, Tennessee, shooter swapped shoes

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