How the Internet Got the Wrong Lanza

Apologies flooded the web late Friday afternoon for connecting a CNN report with the alleged Newtown shooter's brother by way of his Facebook profile.

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Friday afternoon, after CNN's Susan Candiotti reported that a twentysomething Ryan Lanza — from Newtown, Connecticut, and living in Hoboken, N.J. — was the man involved in the Newtown school shooting, the Internet decided to do a little sleuthing that led to the wrong conclusions. The media and masses instantly headed to Facebook, where it found a profile for a twentysomething named Ryan Lanza — from Newtown, and living Hoboken. Photos and details began to emerge as apparent facts about the dead shooter, until wall posts on the since-deleted profile (screen shotted and tweeted by two of Lanza's friends) seemed to change the narrative: this Ryan Lanza was alive, and he was telling the Internet it had the wrong guy — everything may have seemed right, but everyone was so very wrong. "It wasn't me," Ryan Lanza said.

At an early-evening news conference, Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut state police said, "I'm not gonna confirm the identity of the shooter right now." But The New York Post — and other media outlets citing police sources are now reporting that the shooter is not 24-year-old Ryan Lanza but his brother, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed his mother, a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook and possibly another person at a Connecticut home close to the school, who reports say is another relative. Ryan Lanza is alive and has been questioned by police, reports The New York Times. So it now looks like the Internet had the right Ryan Lanza — he just wasn't the shooter.

It's not clear what led to the Ryan-Adam confusion initially, but Ryan Lanza has emerged as one very shocked sibling: he told police that "his younger brother is autistic, or has Asperger syndrome and a 'personality disorder,'" ABC News just reported. And Ryan Lanza had told a Brett Wilshe that it's possible the shooter had his identification, Wilshe told a local New Jersey paper. NBC News has also reported that Adam had his brother's identification. It's still unclear why that would be the case. (Perhaps he was using it as a fake ID? Younger siblings do this, certainly.)

Facebook has declined to comment about the mixup, but at the very least the the Twitterati and the mainstream media appear to have learned their lessons — apologies flooded the web late Friday afternoon for connecting the CNN report with the wrong Lanza by way of his Facebook profile. Meanwhile, an Adam Lanza who fits the profile of the shooter remains hard for even skeptical eyes to track down: already some fake Adam Lanza Facebook profiles have popped up, and there is no clear Twitter connection either. Or maybe everyone should just wait until the cops tell us he's actually the killer.

Update, 7:05 p.m.: Here's what we think we know about Adam Lanza at this point.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.