Facts Matter: Misinformation about shooter follows tragedy in Highland Park

  • Members of the FBI's Evidence Response Team Unit investigate in downtown Highland Park the day after Monday's deadly mass shooting. Among false claims circulating on social media about the shooting suspect were a post including a doctored picture purported to show him reading a Bible and another claiming to show him holding a rose in his fist.

    Members of the FBI's Evidence Response Team Unit investigate in downtown Highland Park the day after Monday's deadly mass shooting. Among false claims circulating on social media about the shooting suspect were a post including a doctored picture purported to show him reading a Bible and another claiming to show him holding a rose in his fist. Sun-Times Photo via Associated Press

  • Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak looks at a video screen as he presides over the initial appearance of the man suspected of the Highland Park shootings. Among false claims circulating on social media about the shooting suspect were a post including a doctored picture purported to show him reading a Bible and another claiming to show him holding a rose in his fist.

    Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak looks at a video screen as he presides over the initial appearance of the man suspected of the Highland Park shootings. Among false claims circulating on social media about the shooting suspect were a post including a doctored picture purported to show him reading a Bible and another claiming to show him holding a rose in his fist. Associated Press Pool Photo

 
 
Updated 7/9/2022 6:17 PM

The horrific shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, resulting in seven people killed and a few dozen injured, left the Chicago area, and the nation, shocked by a tragedy that occurred during a celebration of tradition and freedom.

And then the fake news began on social media.

 

A photo circulating on the internet appears to show the shooting suspect in a prison cell reading the Bible. The image was posted in a July 4 tweet by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene along with the comment, "Is he in jail or rehab or a psychiatric center in this photo? That's not his bedroom."

Greene retweeted that same photo the next day.

But the photo has been doctored, according to PolitiFact. The image was made up from other images.

"This is an obvious fake," University of California, Berkeley professor Hany Farid told PolitiFact.

"There are clear signs of manipulation around his head and hair, the resolution on his face is inconsistent with the background, and the lighting and shading on his face is inconsistent with the rest of the scene."

Greene later tweeted the image again, but this time with the comment, "This is supposedly photoshopped."

Tattoo photo isn't of suspect

A different photo making the rounds on social media, showing a tattoo of a red rose in a fist, included the claim that it was an image of the suspect's arm.

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"This killer also has a "Rose in the Fist" tattoo which is a socialist symbol. Interesting #HighlandPark," one tweet read.

But that's not the shooting suspect in the photo, according to Reuters.

That photo was originally posted on Reddit in 2014 in which the user wrote, "I thought I'd share my first tattoo. ... To me it represents democratic socialism."

On July 5, after the photo was linked to the shooting, that same user again commented on Reddit.

"I got that tattoo eight years ago," the post read. "Turns out it shows up high in the Google image results for 'socialist tattoo' so some idiot must've just gotten it from there."

The user shared a recent photo of his tattoo with Reuters.

"(It's) a little faded but still definitely on MY arm and not (the shooter's)," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bricks were for project

The Supreme Court, on June 24, overturned Roe v. Wade, a nearly 50-year-old decision that protected the right to have an abortion. The same day, some social media users questioned the placement of stacks of bricks along a street in Washington.

"Meanwhile, someone paid to haul pallets of bricks in and deposited them just 2 blocks from the Capitol offices?" one user wrote.

"It's as if they want violence and riot," a different post read.

But the bricks have nothing to do with the court's decision, according to The Associated Press.

The pallets were part of an ongoing construction project in the area.

More than a week before the court overturned the decision, residents and businesses were given notice about construction that would begin around June 23.

District Department of Transporation public affairs specialist Mariam Nabizad told the AP the project was originally identified Sept. 7, 2021, as part of the city's PaveDC plan.

She said the materials were there "for scheduled and ongoing alley restoration work."

Tweet overstates inflation

Inflation has driven up the cost of cooking out this season, and a recent tweet claims the price of barbecuing this Fourth of July was up more than 65%.

"Remember last summer when (President Joe) Biden bragged about a $0.16 savings on your July Fourth cookout? Well, this is what you're spending on this 4th of July," wrote Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations.

Haley's tweet included a chart listing the one-year increase in the price of barbecue items: hot dog up 15.6%, soda up 13.2%, condiments up 11.9%, ice cream up 9.6%, bread up 8.7% and watermelon up 8.2%. At the bottom of the graphic is the "total" increase, the sum of the other numbers, at 67.2%.

But that's not accurate.

Several Twitter users pointed out that percentage increases can't be added together to arrive at a total percentage increase, PolitiFact reported.

For the barbecue items, the total increase would be averaged by taking the total and dividing by six, which would be 11.2%.

Several Twitter users also pointed out that Haley has an accounting degree.

However, the increases listed for the individual items on the chart were fairly accurate, PolitiFact said.

Shortly after Haley sent the tweet, her staff took it down.

"This was a staff error that should not have been published," Haley's office told PolitiFact.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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