CNN and NBC both falsely reported, citing anonymous sources, that the suspected California shooter was dead on Nov. 14, an assertation that law enforcement officials directly refuted. The case illustrated anew the danger in relying on sources that don’t go on the record, a persistent problem for both media outlets.
According to a story on CNN’s website, the shooter is dead.
CNN host Jake Tapper reported to his Twitter followers that “the shooter in the Saugus high school shooting is dead, two law enforcement officials tell CNN’s @evanperez and @ScottGloverCNN,” two reporters. Another CNN employee, Nick Valencia, also spread the apparently false news, and had not deleted his tweet as of 3 p.m. EDT.
NBC Los Angeles, meanwhile, reported that investigative reporter Eric Leonard was “sorting through confusion, but now can say shooter is dead, per multiple law enforcement sources.”
But both reports appear to be wrong, as Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement that the suspect was in custody and being treated at a local hospital.
CNN issued an update that did not include a correction. It stated: “UPDATE: L.A. County Sherriffs [sic] department confirms the suspect is not dead but is being treated at a local hospital and is in custody. CNN previously reported the suspect was dead, citing two law enforcement sources.”
Update regarding the shooting at #SaugusHigh, suspect is in custody and being treated at a local hospital.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) November 14, 2019
UPDATE10:22 a.m. —
Law enforcement has notified us that the suspect is in custody and a weapon has been seized. We have been told that there is no other suspect. The lockdown has therefore now been lifted from all schools.
— William S. Hart UHSD (@HartDistrict) November 14, 2019
Tapper later deleted his tweet without noting the erroneous reporting, later sharing an update from Villanueva and the William S. Hart Union High School District, which includes the school where the shooting took place.
“Law enforcement has notified us that the suspect is in custody and a weapon has been seized,” the school stated.
NBC Los Angeles’ tweet claiming the shooter was dead is still up over an hour later. The link the outlet shared led to a story that still said “the shooter has died,” citing law enforcement sources.
Both Tapper and Glover of CNN posted about other stories on Thursday, including missives about stories they deemed fake. It wasn’t clear if a correction was forthcoming.
A number of other accounts circulated the initial reporting, including the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and a number of other reporters.
Villanueva said at a press conference that the 16-year-old suspect shot six people, including himself. The teen shot himself in the head but survived and was in grave condition.