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VERIFY: Fact-checking false claims and rumors after UNCC shooting

Hours after a fatal shooting at the campus in Charlotte, online posts were linking an innocent man to the crime and claiming unsubstantiated motives for the shooter.

The investigation into Tuesday's fatal shooting at the University of North Carolina Charlotte is in the early stages, and along with official details about the victims and shooter come viral claims and rumors that often spread false information. 

The VERIFY team is working to break these down. 

(This story is being constantly updated)

Does the shooting suspect have autism?

Credit: Jason Puckett

This claim is possible, but unverifiable at the moment. It would take a doctor or family member to confirm.

The original claim can be seen repeated in a Heavy article stating fast facts on the suspect, Trystan Terrell. Their first fact was a claim that Terrell had autism. The claim cited a blog posted on the Odyssey in 2016 by someone believed to be his sister and written by someone believed to be his father. The story aligned with an interview of Terrell’s grandfather by the Associated Press stating that Terrell and his father moved to North Carolina from Texas following the death of Terrell’s mother. In the blog post, the father describes a meeting with a nurse when his son was three in which she asked, “Has anyone ever mentioned the word autism to you?” 

While the blog lines up with information we know about the family, at this time, we cannot verify that the post is definitively from the family. It also doesn't clearly state that the boy had autism, just that a nurse asked if they'd had him checked. 

Is this a "mass shooting?"

Credit: Facebook

There's no legal definition of a "mass shooting," but the UNCC shooting is currently listed as a "mass shooting" by the organizations who monitor shootings in the US.

The FBI defined a "mass murderer" in the 1980s as a person who kills four or more people in a single incident, but stated more recently on their website that mass killings are "defined by the law as three or more people." The Gun Violence Archive has adapted FBI definitions to apply to mass shootings, stating that their mass shooting definition is "FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location, not including the shooter." The Stanford mass shooting database defines a mass shooting as three or more shooting victims, not including the shooter and not necessarily fatalities. The UNC Charlotte shooting is currently included in the Gun Violence Archive's database of mass shootings.

“SAM HYDE” is an accomplice.

A viewer sent an email that said: “I work in law enforcement and the shooter had an accomplice. His name is Sam Hyde.”

That’s false.

Credit: Jason Puckett

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Hyde’s name or image has been tied to unrelated crimes. He’s a Youtube celebrity who has become the target of internet trolls. In many breaking news scenarios, those same trolls have sent his image or name to news outlets to try and trick them into saying his name on air. 

Here’s more info about Hyde, who is not related to the incident at UNCC in any way.

Posts about the shooter's background from MyLife.com

Credit: MyLife.com

Go to the site MyLife.com and search for the shooters' name. You’ll arrive at this page. 

When this article was written, the sites summary section showed that the shooter was an African American Muslim who registered as a Democrat. 

The only problem?  It’s possible that none of that is true. 

MyLife.com is a legitimate site for background searches and information, but one of its features in normal times can be taken advantage of in stressful situations.

Like Wikipedia, MyLife.com profiles can be logged into and edited by anyone. The current “Summary” for the shooter could have been written by anyone online and the information can regularly change. 

Any claims about the shooter's motivations or background using that site are false.

Did the shooter post a blog/manifesto?

Credit: Tiwtter

(Since VERIFY first covered this topic, the blog has been deleted.)

VERIFY is choosing not to link to this blog until law enforcement can officially weigh in on the topic. 

There’s no evidence the blog belonged to the shooter or that the content that’s written was talking about the attacks. There’s also no proof that it wasn’t the shooter. 

We’re leaving this claim as “Unverified” until it can be definitively proven. 

A search of the metadata of the site shows that the text was posted before the attacks. 

The message does claim to be a UNCC student who is upset at a teacher, but their written goal in the blog is to raise attention to the issue by posting about it online. There are no names and no mentions of attacks whatsoever.

Was this the same person who threatened to commit a mass shooting at UNC Charlotte last year?

Credit: Jason Puckett

This claim is FALSE.

A former UNC Charlotte student, named Matthew Saavedra, was arrested in March of 2018 for threatening to commit a mass shooting on the school’s campus. School officials were cited in previous reports of the incident. The UNCC shooting suspect is a different person, named Trystan Terrell. If that doesn’t convince you, there is more that sets them apart. The shooting suspect was a history major at UNCC who dropped out this semester. The person who made the threat last year was banned from the UNCC campus following the incident, meaning he would not have been able to continue studying his major at UNCC before dropping out this semester. The two suspects also come from different hometowns.

Are Americans 25 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than people in other developed countries?

Credit: Twitter

This claim is VERIFIED but is based on 2010 data.

This claim sources a study that examined 2010 World Bank mortality data. The study found that the gun homicide rate in the United States is about 25 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries and Americans are about 10 times more likely to die by a gun than people in other high-income countries. The study included countries that met the World Bank's definition of high-income, were members of the OECD and provided mortality data to the World Bank. There were 24 countries other than the United States who were studied. This included European countries plus New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea.

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