After last year’s mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, a man calling himself David Briscoe described how he had heroically barricaded the door of the classroom he was teaching in and instructed students to lie down and cover their mouths as gunshots rang out nearby.
But the school district said Monday that the story was false, and no one by that name had ever worked for the school.
Multiple news organizations included quotations attributed to Briscoe after the May 2018 shooting that killed 10 and wounded 13. He said he was a substitute English teacher and that the massacre took place on only his third day teaching at the school.
“I barricaded the door with desks and tables and shut the lights,” CNN quoted him as saying. In an article that has since been updated to remove Briscoe’s account, CNN also reported that he said he had “heard what sounded like a student getting hit by a bullet.”
The story fell apart when The Texas Tribune began making inquiries following a phone interview in April and discovered that it appeared Briscoe was never at the site of the shooting.
“We can confirm that there has never been an employee (part-time or full-time), substitute, vendor, contractor or intern working in Santa Fe ISD named David Briscoe,” Lindsey Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Sante Fe Independent School District, said in an email.
The district’s superintendent, Leigh Wall, said Monday that the apparent hoax was an example of how fast misinformation can spread, “especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited.”
“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,” she added.
Wall said that the district was thankful for the people correcting the record and was continuing to focus on the needs of its students.
Social media posts indicate that a Twitter account under Briscoe’s name continued to seek out reporters this year by claiming to have survived the shooting.
“I’m not too sure if you remember me but I was actually was apart of the Santa Fe shooting last year,” the account tweeted in April in response to a CNN reporter. “You briefly wrote about me in an article last year and it was great. 🙂 However, I was wondering if you were interested in doing a follow-up article? In light of the recent suicides.”
The operator of the Twitter account under Briscoe’s name did not immediately respond to a direct message. Briscoe is listed as the chief executive of a social media marketing agency, but an email sent to the listed address was returned with a message saying it could not be delivered.
The Tribune reported that the Twitter account with Briscoe’s name stopped responding to the news organization’s messages when it began asking for a follow-up interview in May. In direct messages posted by the news outlet, the Twitter account told a reporter that he had never lived in Texas, that one of his employees had stolen his identity and that the employee had been the one quoted by other news outlets.
Time magazine, which also updated its article to remove the man’s quotations, wrote at the time that “Briscoe’s reality — though, he says, it still feels like a dream — is a nightmare for any teacher.”
Alexandra Samuels, the reporter who broke the story for The Texas Tribune, said she first questioned Briscoe’s account while reviewing notes from a phone interview she conducted with him. His comments, she said, were strikingly similar to those she had read in his interview with Time magazine.
As Samuels continued reporting for a series on Santa Fe High School one year after the shooting, her suspicions only grew stronger.
“When I mentioned him, no one knew who he was,” she said.