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How the Santa Fe school shooting “survivor” hoax unraveled

How the Santa Fe school shooting “survivor” hoax unraveled
[Photo: Michael Starghill, Jr. for The Washington Post via Getty Images]

After the Santa Fe High School shooting in May last year, which left 10 people dead, substitute teacher David Briscoe was lauded a hero, as he described to CNN and The Wall Street Journal how he protected his students until police arrived on the scene.

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Except that he wasn’t a substitute teacher. The Houston-area school district said he’d never been an employee. Public records show he’s never even lived in Texas.

The Texas Tribune reported the apparent hoax on Monday. In April, almost a year after the shooting, Briscoe reached out to the Tribune via Twitter, using the handle @daviddbriscoe, requesting to be interviewed. “In light of the recent suicides from the survivors of Parkland, I think it’s important to shed light and walk through the minds of survivors from previous shootings,” the Twitter user posted.

Reporter Alex Samuels conducted an interview, during which Briscoe talked about having struggled with depression and contemplated suicide. He also said he gave a speech at Orlando Colonial High School, where he was honored by the principal. That school said no one named David Briscoe had ever spoken on its premises.

When Samuels tweeted at Briscoe a few weeks later to check facts, @daviddbriscoe claimed he’d never contacted the Tribune and that his identity had been stolen.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” the Twitter post read. “Fact-check what? I just got back on Twitter recently I’m not sure what you mean.” He said his team handles his digital accounts, referring to the staff at the social media agency he claimed to have started in Orlando. The New York Times sent an email to the address listed for the company, and it bounced back.

He’s since stopped responding to social media outreach and phone calls.

In the weeks since, people on the scene as well as public records have disputed his claims. The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office claimed he wouldn’t have been able to hear gunshots or screams from his English classroom, where he had claimed to be, since the shooting took place in the art rooms, in a different area of the building.

Genuine survivors from the scene told the Tribune they’d never heard of a David Briscoe. Flo Rice, an actual substitute teacher who was shot in both legs during the massacre, expressed sadness that he’d told falsehoods about such a tragic event. “No one wants to have been there,” she said, “and no one wants to have been in this club that we’re all in now.”

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