Fact Check: Did Different Men Pose as 'Father' of Uvalde Shooting Victim?

In less than a week after the Uvalde school shooting, wild conspiracy theories and false allegations have already begun corrupting media coverage of the tragedy.

Just hours following the senseless killing of 21 people (including 19 schoolchildren) at the Robb Elementary School on 24 May, 2022, unevidenced claims about the suspect being transgender began to spread.

Now, as the U.S. continues to grieve, more baseless claims have bubbled up, including those falling into an all-too-familiar category of misleading narratives accompanying many recent mass shootings in America.

Uvalde School Shooting
Flowers, candles and pictures are pictured at a makeshift memorial outside the Uvalde County Courthouse in Texas on May 28, 2022. Baseless "crisis actor" comments have already formed on social media less than a week after the senseless tragedy.

The Claim

A tweet posted on May 28, 2022, includes video interviews with men identified as parents of Uvalde shooting victim, 10-year-old Amerie Garza.

One clip shows CNN host Anderson Cooper interviewing "Angel Garza", the "Father of Shooting Victim Amerie Jo Garza."

The other clip taken from NBC's Today Show, shows an interview with Alfred Garza III, also identified as Amerie's father.

The video posted on Twitter is edited to highlight the names of the interviewed men, superimposes the abbreviation "WTF" and concluding with the text "HOW DOES AMERIE GARZA HAVE A DIFFERENT FATHER ON EACH NETWORK?" Text in the tweet itself states "Two networks, Same Victim, different fathers."

The Facts

The tweet and video appear to be a nod towards "crisis actors," a term widely used by conspiracy theorists to describe someone hired to appear as a victim or witness to a news story.

It is a harmful and insidious notion that has been repeated after a number of mass shootings, despite not being ground in fact.

Perhaps the most prominent example came after Sandy Hook, when InfoWars host Alex Jones claimed the incident was a "hoax" (Jones, who was successfully sued by the Sandy Hook victims' families, has already begun expressing similarly misplaced doubts about the shooting in Uvalde).

While the confusion caused by the reporting is understandable, digging deeper into the story reveals that the two men in the video were, in fact, Amerie's biological father and her stepfather.

In an interview with CBS58.com, Angel Garza and Alfred Garza were both interviewed and identified as Amerie's stepfather and biological father respectively.

According to the article, Angel was working as a med aide at the scene and found a girl that said her best friend had been killed.

The report stated: "Angel Garza asked her the name of the dead girl. It was his stepdaughter, Amerie Jo. That's how he learned Amerie was gone."

This same account was given in the full Anderson Cooper interview on CNN.

CBS58.com also reported that Alfred, Amerie's biological father, was outside the school as the tragedy took place.

"Days later, as gun enthusiasts and politicians gathered at the NRA convention and the governor questioned the actions of law enforcement, the grieving father had one question," the report states.

"'Who's going to pay for this?' Alfred Garza said."

CNN later stated on its website that Alfred Garza was the biological father, while multiple media outlets quoted Angel Garza as Amerie's stepfather.

It appears the television interviews simply did not make a clear distinction between the two men's specific familial relationships to Amerie. It is also not clear whether the two men share the last name because they are related, one of the took the girl's mother's name, or if it is simply a coincidence.

Newsweek reached out to CNN and NBC for comment.

It is not the first time this type of damaging misinformation has emerged in the aftermath of a shooting.

A photo of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung (who died trying to save the lives of children at the school in 2012) was shared by conspiracy theorists, who claimed she was interviewed as a witness after the 2013 Boston marathon bombing.

The photo lacks basic context, such as date, network or subject of the interviews. Newsweek could not independently verify if the interviews even exist (some have claimed that the second image was manipulated to fit the frame on the right-hand side).

Other fact checkers speculated that Donna Page (who stepped in as principal after Sandy Hook) may have been the "Donna" interviewed after the Boston Marathon. Further analysis suggested that more likely the person was one of the marathon participants, Donna Bruce, with the network simply using the wrong image by mistake.

In 2018 a conspiracy video falsely claiming the survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting was a "crisis actor" briefly became the No.1 trending video on YouTube and Facebook.

School shootings have not been the only source for "crisis actor" narratives. Throughout the pandemic, conspiracy theorists have spread misinformation that actors were employed to pretend to be sick with COVID-19.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

The two men interviewed in the video are the biological father and the stepfather of Amerie Jo Garza. The broadcast interviews simply didn't explain this in their reports. The allegations on Twitter are in line with past and existing conspiracy theories that often emerge on the back of major tragedies, which get falsely labeled as hoaxes or cover-ups.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team