Q: Did Reddit postings show the shooter in Jacksonville, Florida, was part of the “anti-Trump resistance”?
A: No. The Reddit account in question did not belong to the shooter, David Katz, despite what viral stories said.
It’s not clear what political leanings, if any, David Katz possessed before opening fire Aug. 26 at a competitive gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida — killing two people and injuring 10 more before fatally shooting himself.
But we now know that the Reddit account some websites cited as evidence that Katz, 24, was a member of the so-called “anti-Trump resistance” didn’t actually belong to him. Instead, it belonged to a Minnesota man, as FactCheck.org has confirmed.
That falsehood was widely distributed by conservative websites this week before the user on the social website debunked it. Popular websites like the Gateway Pundit and Infowars have since acknowledged the mistaken identity: The former removed the claims that were in its original story, and the latter deleted its story altogether. The Gateway Pundit also acknowledged in an “update”: “An anonymous Reddit user was mis-identified in an earlier post.”
On other websites, though, the deception has lingered.
“The Jacksonville Shooter Hated Trump,” conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh’s website declared in a Aug. 27 post, citing the Gateway Pundit’s story on the Reddit comment.
“JACKSONVILLE SHOOTER WAS ANTI-TRUMP RESISTANCE WARRIOR,” reads another headline from the same day on davidharrisjr.com, whose story logged thousands of Facebook engagements. Both of those stories were still posted on the websites on Aug. 30.
“We don’t know if David Katz wore a mask and participated in violent riots, but we do know he was part of the Trump resistance, who called Trump supporters ‘Trumptards’ and ‘mentally ill,'” the davidharrisjr.com article reads.
The post republished the Gateway Pundit’s story, which cited a tweet from conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich that referenced the Reddit account’s remark that used the term “trumptards.”
The Reddit account’s username — “ravenchamps” — is similar to a username that Katz reportedly used in video gaming — “ravens2012champs.” But the actual owner of the Reddit account made clear that he was not Katz when he posted after Katz’s death.
“I’m apparently the madden shooter what’s up,” ravenchamps posted.
That user, whose first name is Pavel, spoke to FactCheck.org by phone after corresponding through Reddit, and he confirmed the misidentification. The 23-year-old from Minnesota requested his last name be withheld for privacy.
Pavel said he logged on to the website the night after the shooting and noticed comments claiming his account belonged to Katz. “I go online and look and see and there’s a couple harassing ones, hoping that I was dead and rotting in hell,” he recalled.
He posted his comment debunking the theory to a sub-Reddit called “Ask Me Anything,” or AMA.
“Even after this AMA, I still get a few messages from people claiming I’m the guy’s mom,” or someone else covering it up, he said.
Pavel said he typically uses Reddit for football news (he’s indeed a Baltimore Ravens fan), world news and to follow other sub-Reddits out of hobby. He doesn’t post about politics too often, he said.
“I make fun of Republicans and Democrats, they all have their issues,” he said.
While Pavel applauded the fact that some users did point out that a photo he once uploaded of his car showed Minnesota plates (which didn’t comport with the fact that Katz lived in Baltimore, Maryland), the whole episode left him realizing how susceptible some are to misinformation.
“There’s a lot of idiots out there on the internet that don’t fact check anything,” he said.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
Collins, Ben. “Far-right media misidentifies Jacksonville shooter as Trump-bashing Reddit user.” NBC News. 28 Aug 2018.
Ravenchamps. Reddit.com. Accessed 29 Aug 2018.
Pavel (Last name withheld). “Ravenchamps” Reddit user. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 29 Aug 2018.
Pagliery, Jose, et. al. “Jacksonville shooter had history of mental illness and police visits to family home.” CNN.com. 28 Aug 2018.
Hoft, Jim. “Jacksonville Shooter Had Strange Online Profile and Bizarre Playing Style – Murdered 3 People (UPDATE).” Gateway Pundit. 26 Aug 2018.
“NOTICE OF RETRACTION, CORRECTION, AND CLARIFICATION.” Infowars.com. 29 Aug 2018.