A man who formerly claimed to have been a substitute teacher who protected his students during a mass shooting at a Texas high school never actually worked at the school at all, officials confirmed this week.
Ten people lost their lives in May 2018 when 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire in the halls of Santa Fe High School in Texas. Following the deadly shooting, a man named David Briscoe was interviewed by several news outlets and told his story: He was a substitute English teacher at the school that day, and barricaded himself in a classroom with students and heroically protected them.
But on July 1, more than a year after the shooting, officials with the Santa Fe Independent School District confirmed that Briscoe had never worked at the school in any capacity, according to its records, ABC News reports.
“We are extremely disappointed that an individual that has never been a part of our school community would represent themselves as a survivor of the mass violence tragedy that our community endured on May 18, 2018,” Lindsay Campbell, a spokesperson for the Santa Fe Independent School District, told the outlet.
The Texas Tribune uncovered the alleged hoax after interviewing Briscoe in April and finding that, after attempting to verify his claims, his story did not add up. Briscoe’s home address, the paper reported, was listed as being in Florida when the shooting occurred, and there was no record of him having lived in Texas at all.
During an interview that lasted around a half hour, Briscoe told his story, allegedly claiming that he heard shots that were “very, very loud” ring out in the hallways, prompting him to instruct his students to keep quiet while he barricaded the doors and turned the lights off. The experience was so traumatic, he said, that he couldn’t return to the school after the shooting. He struggled with alcoholism and depression, and eventually quit teaching and moved to Orlando, Florida.
“Just knowing that there’s blood on the walls where you walk at ... I don’t think I could go back,” he reportedly told the paper.
But school officials told the outlet that no one by the name of David Briscoe was on campus the day of the shooting, and James Roy, a lieutenant for the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office who investigated the shooting after it happened, further poked holes in Briscoe’s story.
“If he was anywhere other than that hallway [where the shooting took place], I don't think he could’ve heard anything but the fire alarm,” Roy said.
When the Tribune reached out to Briscoe to confront him about his story, he responded with claims that an employee at a social media company he founded had stolen his identity last year and again recently, and they were the one who gave interviews regarding the Santa Fe shooting. He claimed to have never lived in Texas, only Florida.
CNN has since removed his quotes from its articles, as have other outlets who interviewed Briscoe last year. The Twitter account attributed to him seems to have been deleted, according to the New York Daily News.
Amid news of the hoax, the Santa Fe ISD pointed out the dangers of spreading misinformation in a statement obtained by KTRK.
“This situation illustrates how easily misinformation can be created and circulated, especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited due to the still ongoing investigation into the events of May 18, 2018,” its statement reads, in part. “We appreciate the efforts of those working to correct this misinformation. As a district our focus has always been and continues to be on supporting the needs of our students, staff, and community through the healing and recovery process.”
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