NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week


A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out.


Posts share erroneous information about suspect identification in Kansas City mass shooting

CLAIM: A 44-year-old migrant named Sahil Omar was identified as one of the shooters at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade on Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Three juveniles were detained and one was later released in the investigation into the shooting that broke out at the conclusion of parade festivities outside historic Union Station, police said. The name Sahil Omar along with the same description has been used before on social media to make similar erroneous claims in connection with a January explosion in Fort Worth, Texas, and a December shooting in Las Vegas.

Social media users began sharing information that falsely pinned the violence on a 44-year-old migrant living in the country illegally following the shooting that left a mother of two dead and 22 injured at the end of the parade celebrating the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win.

“At least one of the Kansas City Chiefs parade shooters identified as Sahil Omar, a 44 year old illegal immigrant,” reads one post on X that had received approximately 24,000 likes and 11,700 shares as of Thursday before it was deleted. “Biden has failed to protect America from invasion and terrorism.”

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference on Thursday that three people had been detained as part of an investigation into the shooting, including two juveniles. The third person, who was later identified as a juvenile, was released. No further information was released pending further investigation.

“The ID of anyone arrested only becomes public record together with any criminal charges,” Officer Alayna Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the Kansas City Police Department, told The Associated Press in an email. “There have not been any criminal charges at this time.”

Graves added at the press conference that “preliminary investigative findings have shown there was no nexus to terrorism or home-grown violent extremism.”

Social media users also falsely blamed a massive explosion in January at the Sandman Signature Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as a shooting in December at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on a 44-year-old migrant named Sahil Omar.

No suspect was sought in relation to the Fort Worth explosion, police told the AP at the time. Authorities said the blast had “characteristics of a natural gas explosion,” but that the cause was still under investigation.

The actual suspect in the Las Vegas attack, who died in a shootout with law enforcement, was identified by police as Anthony Polito, a longtime business professor who had unsuccessfully applied for several jobs at various colleges and universities in Nevada. ___

The Texas megachurch shooter has not been identified as transgender, despite claims online

CLAIM: The shooter who carried out an attack injuring two people at a Texas megachurch on Sunday has been identified as transgender.

THE FACTS: Houston police said on Monday that its investigation has thus far determined that the shooter, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, identified as female despite using multiple aliases, including the name Jeffery — or Jeffrey — Escalante. Multiple court records identify Moreno as female, most recently in 2022.

Amid the aftermath of the Sunday, Feb. 11, shooting at Lakewood Church, which is led by televangelist pastor Joel Osteen, social media users spread false claims about Moreno’s gender identity.

“BREAKING: Lakewood Church shooter identified as transgender, legal name Genesse Moreno but went by the name ‘Jeffrey,’” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter, that had received approximately 9,300 likes and 6,200 shares as of Friday.

Others claimed that Moreno, who was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire, had been born as Jeffery, but went by Genesse as part of her transition.

Officials have not found any evidence that Moreno was transgender. Police said she used male and female aliases, but that investigators who looked at past police reports determined she identified as female.

“We do have reports she used multiple aliases, including Jeffery Escalante,” Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig said about 19 minutes into a press conference on Monday. “So she has utilized both male and female names, but through all of our investigation to this point, talking with individuals, interviews, documents, Houston Police Department reports, she has been identified this entire time as female, she, her. And so we are identifying her as Genesse Moreno, Hispanic female.

Records in Harris County, where Houston is located, show that Moreno, under the names Jeffery G. Escalante-Moreno or Jeffery G. Escalante, was charged in six criminal cases from 2005 to 2011. She is identified asfemaleinallofthem. A case filed in nearby Katy County after Moreno’s latest arrest in April 2022 also lists her as female, but with the name Genesse Ivonne Moreno.

William Capasso, an attorney in Houston who represented Moreno for a portion of her divorce proceedings in 2021 to 2022, told The Associated Press that she went by Jeffrey Moreno-Carranza at the time. He said Carranza was her married name and noted that at that time “there was no indication that she was transgender.”

“It is my understanding that although her birth name was Jeffrey Moreno, she was born female and identified as a female,” he wrote in an email. “She did use Genesse and may have changed her name to Genesse Moreno after I represented her.”

Capasso added that Moreno used the name “Jeffrey Genesse Escalante Moreno” on her son’s birth certificate. He said he withdrew as Moreno’s attorney in the proceedings because he was not able to communicate with her effectively.

Many social media posts used claims about Moreno’s gender identity to advance a baseless narrative that there has been a rise in transgender or nonbinary mass shooters in recent years. This narrative previously spread widely in March 2023, after an assailant who identified as transgender killed six people at a Nashville private school.

Gender and criminology experts told The Associated Press at the time that mass casualty shootings perpetrated by someone identifying as transgender or nonbinary are rare and that those groups are far more likely to be the victims of violence.

Authorities said on Monday that Moreno used a legally purchased AR-15 style rifle to carry out the attack at Lakewood Church, one of the biggest megachurches in the U.S. She was shot and killed by two off-duty officers working security at the building. Two other people were shot and wounded, including Moreno’s young son, who she brought with her to the church.


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