In a media culture where getting it first and getting it fast often trumps getting it right, several news outlets and Twitter hastily, and wrongly, identified two men named Ryan Lanza as the suspect in the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
And unfortunately, it’s not the first time that in the chaos of a mass shooting that someone with the same name as the suspect was fingered as being the person responsible for the terror.
Twitter and Facebook users were quick to share this profile of Ryan Lanza, speculating that because he was from Newtown, it belonged to the 24-year-old Ryan Lanza that police said carried out the mass shooting at an elementary school on Friday. Some users went so far as to give out personal details, including the address, of one of the wrong Ryan Lanzas.
The same fate of the wrong Ryan Lanzas was also suffered by the wrong James Holmes, whom media outlets and Internet users were quick, but wrong, to point out as the James Holmes suspected in the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting in July.
“I appreciate the fact that you are trying to become better-informed about the occurrences last night in Aurora, but you have been somewhat mislead [sic], in that I am not the man who did it. I am not a 24-year-old gun-slinging killer from Aurora, I am a 22-year-old book-slinging mass eater from Littleton,” the other James Holmes posted July 21, the day after the mass shooting, when he was bombarded with Facebook friend requests.
“Somewhat distinct, I would assume. But I would appreciate if you would read this particular post and not assume that it would be interesting to be friends with someone on Facebook who is very probably going to be in jail and not be able to confirm your friend requests anyway, or even be friends with his girlfriend, who had the rather interesting experience of having to tell someone she had a job interview with that she is not, in fact dating a serial killer. James Holmes happens to be a pretty common name, surprisingly, so try not to jump the gun.”
Even as it became clear that the media had identified the wrong Ryan Lanza as the shooter in Connecticut, several Twitter users then jumped to the conclusion that it was this Ryan Lanza -- apparently because that user had multiple references to depression and wanting the world to end.
The user, @Ryan_Lanza, wrote around 3 p.m., “so aperently [sic] im getting spammed bc someone with the same name as me killed some ppl ... wtf?