Early Monday morning, police identified Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old Las Vegas resident, as the man suspected of opening fire from the Mandala Bay Resort & Casino late Sunday night, killing more than 50 people and injuring 400 others.
But amid the chaos that erupted at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, people turning to social media for answers saw another name popping up on their feeds: Geary Danley.
Danley’s name first came up because he was Facebook friends with Marilou Danley, whom police had described as a person of interest connected to the suspected shooter. It’s unclear what relationship Geary Danley has with Marilou Danley, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marilou Danley has been found out of the country and is no longer considered a person of interest.
Right-wing news site the Gateway Pundit, which the Trump administration granted White House press credentials this year, posted a now-deleted item identifying Geary Danley as the shooter with the headline: “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army.”
Danley’s name was also linked to the shooting on Everipedia, an online encyclopedia that describes itself as allowing “anyone to create a page about any person, organization, object, or idea.” In the Everipedia post, which was shared more than 4,000 times on Facebook, Danley was identified as “a Democrat and is registered to vote in Washoe County, Nevada” who liked several anti-Trump pages on Facebook.
From there, Danley’s name and supposed politics spread across right-wing social media, pushed by conservative platforms such as Cougarboard, Dailey Alt News, and USSA News, which describes itself as “The Tea Party’s Front Page.” The false news items quickly spread across social media until police identified Paddock as the lone suspect about six hours after the shooting.
Dailey Alt News later corrected its post and apologized.
The report by https://t.co/uyYXs98yh8 claiming Geary Dailey was the shooter was wrong and I retract my post. Everyone should do the same.
— Dailey Media (@The_Dailey) October 2, 2017
Another false suspect
The false identification of Danley as the suspected shooter wasn’t the only hoax that spread overnight Sunday into Monday morning. As Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick pointed out, dozens of accounts falsely identified comedian Sam Hyde as the suspected shooter, claiming he was “32-year-old Islamic convert Samir Al-Hajeed.”
Fake ‘missing friends’
There were also several social media users who spread fake “missing friends” photos on Twitter, including the fake Twitter account Jack Sins, who shared a photo of a man claiming to be his missing father. The photo actually features porn star Johnny Sins.
— jack sins (@immyxrx) October 2, 2017
Mashable reporter Gianluca Mezzofiore was able to message the owner of the Jack Sins account, who had a simple explanation why he decided to exploit a tragedy: “For the retweets.”