Social media users are claiming a photo of a curly-haired man in a hooded sweatshirt is Anderson Lee Aldrich, who police accuse of opening fire on November 19, 2022 inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is false; the widely shared picture is of another man identified as the driver of a truck that fatally struck a girl during a holiday parade in North Carolina.
"22 year old Anderson Lee Aldrich was the shooter at the LQBTQ bar in Colorado…Club Q," says one November 20 tweet sharing the image.
Screenshot of a tweet taken on November 21, 2022
"Is this Anderson Lee Aldridge??" another post on Facebook asks.
Misinformation commonly spreads after mass shootings, as gaps in information leave room for fake social media profiles and misrepresented photos to emerge.
The image shared was featured in numerous news articles about a different incident in Raleigh, North Carolina, a reverse image search revealed. The man is Landen Christopher Glass, 20, who faces charges after he allegedly lost control of his vehicle and fatally hit a child while towing a float during the city's November 19 Christmas parade.
The Raleigh Police Department shared with AFP a press statement in which they identified Glass as the vehicle's operator and shared his photo, confirming the picture is the same image circulating alongside false captions online.
A photo released by the Raleigh Police Department of Landen Christopher Glass, 20 ( Raleigh Police Department)
Jason Newton, the community relations sergeant for the Colorado Springs Police Department, told AFP in a November 21 email that officers did not yet have a mugshot for Aldrich, as he has been hospitalized and has not been booked in jail.
Newton said the department would post a booking photo -- the image taken of a detained person -- on its Twitter page when one is taken; as of 1800 GMT on November 22, no such photo has been made available.
Other tweets claiming to identify the Colorado Springs suspect shared an image of Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, the University of Virginia student and former football player who faces murder charges stemming from a November 13 shooting that killed three players and injured two other people, setting off a school lockdown and hours-long manhunt.
"Anderson Lee Aldrich, gay nightclub shooter. Does he look like your typical republican?" one such tweet says.
But a reverse image search showed the same picture broadcast in news reports about Jones. Colonel Martin Kumer, superintendent for the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, where Jones is being held, provided AFP with a copy of the photo being misrepresented online and confirmed it is a picture of Jones, not Aldrich.
Screenshot of a tweet taken November 21, 2022
A photo provided by the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail of Christopher Darnell Jones Jr ( Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail)
Still other tweets have misrepresented photos of different people, including Sam Hyde, a comedian who for years has been falsely blamed for shootings and other tragedies; Jack Smith, the prosecutor assigned as special counsel to two ongoing criminal investigations into former US president Donald Trump; Brady Tkachuk, a professional ice hockey player; and a man who pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in Missouri.
Screenshot of a tweet showing Sam Hyde, taken November 21, 2022
Screenshot of a tweet showing Jack Smith taken November 21, 2022
The investigation into Aldrich is ongoing. Formal charges have not yet been filed, but he is expected to face first-degree murder and possible hate crimes offenses.
US media have reported that Aldrich was previously arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat at his mother's home, according to a press statement from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and his mother's former tenant, who spoke to outlets including The Gazette, a newspaper in Colorado Springs. The Gazette obtained footage from the incident.
Facebook posts made by an account in the mother's name indicate that a Republican California state assembly member is Aldrich's grandfather, a relationship other news outlets say they have corroborated.