For a short period of time on Friday, as media outlets scrambled to get information about the Sandy Hook shooting, the wrong man was accused of murder.
Ryan Lanza, the brother of the actual killer, Adam Lanza, was shown on multiple news outlets as the man behind the massacre. His Facebook profile pictures had been pulled by Fox, CBS, Gawker and BuzzFeed* after a police source mis-identified Adam.Adam had Ryan’s ID on him when his body was found, which caused the initial confusion.
Ryan took to Facebook to defend himself, but only those who were friends with him could see his updates.
“F*ck you CNN it wasn’t me,” he wrote frantically from his mobile device while the world told him to rot in hell. “Everyone shut the f*ck up it wasn’t me.”
One Facebook friend of Ryan’s, Matt Bors, wrote what it was like watching this all unfold.
Bors has never met Lanza, but Lanza is a fan of the comics Bors makes. He follows the artist on the social network, so Bors was able to see all of the 24-year-old Ernst & Young employee’s updates.
As Lanza was posting the private status messages, Bors took screenshots and posted them to Twitter to help make Lanza’s innocence more widely known.
But soon, Bors found himself under public attack.
He writes on his blog:
“One demanded to know how I could be friends with such a monster. Could I help a random internet sleuth create a ‘psychological profile’? Did I see warning signs in Ryan? Why did I suspiciously post cartoons about mass shootings only days before? That was very tasteless. A text to my phone from an unknown number read ‘looks like this killer is a fan of yours.’ A Twitter user declared me a ‘snitch’ for sharing Ryan’s post. Someone accused me of having something to do with the killings, ‘which you take delight in,’ they wrote, and hoped the FBI would hold me accountable.”
Since then, Bors has received a few apologies, but nothing that softens Friday’s blows.
“Not two hours after accusing me being involved in the killing of 20 children, the man on Facebook was back: ‘I apologise for jumping the gun,'” Bors writes.
“We’re not thinking straight.”
Here’s the tweet that brought Bors under attack:
I’m FB friends with the profile being sent around. This is a real screen grab. twitter.com/MattBors/statu…
— Matt Bors (@MattBors) December 14, 2012
Update: We initially listed CNN as one of the stations that showed Ryan Lanza’s face as the Sandy Hook shooter. It actually never showed the photo, but it did inaccuratedly report that Ryan was the killer, like many other news outlets on Friday.
Here’s a statement from the network: “Just want to ask why CNN is blamed for the Ryan-Adam screwup when many outlets reported it as well. We know Fox aired the wrong Facebook photo, but we did not. Our anchors and correspondents have been transparent on air when we have corrected ourselves, and they have addressed the conflicting information from sources on this moving story.”