False claims about the shooter at a Christian elementary school in Nashville have been swirling on social media. Police shot and killed the suspect, whom they identified as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale. The person was not named “Samantha Hyde” — a reference to a long-running internet hoax.
Police have identified 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale as the shooter who killed six people — including three 9-year-old children — at the Covenant School, a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27.
The shooting took place at about 10 a.m., and by 10:30 a.m. officers had shot and killed Hale inside the school, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
The department reported the shooting on Twitter at noon and by 2 p.m. it had announced that the shooter was a “28-year-old Nashville woman.”
Officials released the shooter’s name about an hour later.
In the meantime, though, internet trolls adapted a well-worn hoax that follows many mass shootings.
Since 2015, some social media users have spread false claims that a comedian named Sam Hyde is the suspect in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting.
In this case, claims began circulating that “Samantha Hyde” was the suspect.
But, as we said, the name released by police was Audrey Hale, and the latest take on the Sam Hyde hoax is just that — a hoax.
Other social media users appeared to be confused about the gender identity of the suspect, which may be due to the lack of clarity in what was a rapidly developing story.
John Drake, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said at an afternoon press briefing on March 27 that “she [Hale] does identify as transgender.” Later at the same press conference, Drake appeared to again mistakenly say that Hale was a transgender woman.
So some social media accounts have posted claims that Hale was a “TransGender female” or that Hale was “a biological male,” which is not correct.
Don Aaron, a police spokesman, later clarified Drake’s remarks in a statement to the Washington Post. “Audrey Hale is a biological woman who, on a social media profile, used male pronouns,” Aaron told the newspaper.
Many details about the shooting and the shooter are yet to be released by authorities. But what we know so far is that police have identified the suspect as Audrey Hale, not “Samantha Hyde,” and that they have said Hale was transgender.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Press release. “Investigation Continuing into Today’s Active Shooter Murders at Covenant School.” 27 Mar 2023.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (@MNPDNashville). “An active shooter event has taken place at Covenant School, Covenant Presbyterian Church, on Burton Hills Dr. The shooter was engaged by MNPD and is dead. Student reunification with parents is at Woodmont Baptist Church, 2100 Woodmont Blvd.” Twitter. 27 Mar 2023.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (@MNPDNashville). “UPDATE: 3 students & 3 adult staff members from Covenant School were fatally shot by the active shooter, who has now been identified as a 28-year-old Nashville woman.” Twitter. 27 Mar 2023.
USA Today (@USATODAY). “Watch: Nashville school shooting press conference held.” YouTube. 27 Mar 2023.
Hicks, Liza. “Why Sam Hyde Goes Viral After Every Mass Shooting.” BuzzFeed. Accessed 28 Mar 2023.
Mueller, Kim, et al. “Nashville school shooter who killed 6 was heavily armed, left ‘manifesto.’” Washington Post. 27 Mar 2023.