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The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

Responders gather at the scene of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School with police tape surrounding a vehicle on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven are dead, including 20 children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza in news reports, opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly died at the scene. (Credit: Getty Images)

UPDATE 10:40 p.m. EST: The Associated Press now reports:

At least one parent said Lanza’s mother was a substitute teacher there. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the law enforcement official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

The reason for the confusion over the mother’s role at the school is unclear at this point. Either way, more details will continue to emerge in the coming days.

UPDATE 8:37 p.m. EST: ABC News is reporting that the gunman’s mother was teacher’s aide at school and not a teacher, according to officials. However, the Associated Press, as of 8:27 p.m. EST, was still reporting that the gunman’s mother was a teacher at the Connecticut school. It is unclear which is correct, but stay tuned for updates.

As news organizations scrambled to be the first to identify the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter on Friday, the media focused on the Facebook profile of one “Ryan Lanza” of Newtown, Conn after some initial reports identified “Ryan Lanza” as the shooter. However, it was later revealed that the shooter’s name was actually Adam Lanza.

But at that point, Ryan Lanza’s Facebook profile — and his picture — had been passed around the Internet. The Facebook debacle caught a number of news outlets off guard.

Fox News:

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

Mediaite:

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

Buzzfeed:

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

Gawker:

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

And of course, this doesn’t include the speculation fueled by social media. Almost immediately, Ryan Lanza began denying that he was actually the shooter.

“F*ck you CNN it wasn’t me,” Ryan Lanza wrote on his Facebook page.

“I’m on the bus home now it wasn’t me…IT WASN’T ME I WAS AT WORK IT WASN’T ME,” he later posted.

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

The Things About Newtown,Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting That Got Reported Wrong

(Screenshot via poynter.org)

The two men are not void of ties though. Ryan Lanza is reportedly the brother of the real shooter, Adam Lanza. Police in Hoboken were reportedly questioning the 24-year-old sibling, according to The New York Post. He is not considered a suspect.

Adam Lanza, 20, is suspected of opening fire Friday inside the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in their classrooms and trembled helplessly to the sound of gunfire reverberating through the building.

Per Slate’s Josh Levin:

According to public records searches, Ryan and Adam Lanza have both lived at 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown. A Nancy Lanza is also listed at that address. News reports indicate that Nancy is the mother of Ryan and Adam, that she worked at Sandy Hook Elementary as a teacher, and that she is presumed dead. The Hartford Courant is reporting that, in addition to the 26 victims found at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “another person was found dead at 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown.” The Courant does not identify the person found dead at that address, but CBS News and CNN are now reporting that Lanza’s mother was found dead in her home.

Public records searches also show that the same Ryan Lanza who lived in Newtown has recently shared an address in Hoboken, N.J., with people named Jessica O’Brien and Michael Shapiro. The circulated screenshots of Ryan Lanza’s Facebook account show responses from a Jessica O’Brien and a Michael Shapiro. In response to Lanza posting “Everyone shut the f*ck up it wasn’t me,” O’Brien wrote: “Do you need anything ready for when you get home? Can I set anything out for you to grab and go? Anything else I can do L”. In response to Lanza writing “F*ck you CNN it wasn’t me,” Shapiro wrote “this is batsh*t insane” and “how the f*ck do they jump to such a conclusion with zero evidence.”

The instance is reminiscent of when ABC’s Brian Ross speculated that a Tea Party member named Jim Holmes could be the Aurora, Colo. shooter based on a Google search. It turned out that the shooter was a completely different James Holmes and it created a number of problems for the man that Ross wrongfully pointed to.

Do you think some media outlets publicized Ryan Lanza’s identity before enough information was available?

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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