A transgender woman was wrongly accused of being the teenage gunman who opened fire on a Texas elementary school.
Photographs of 20-year-old Sam, of Georgia, whose last name has been omitted for her own safety, have been shared on social media after someone on 4chan, an anonymous online forum, claimed she was shooter responsive for Tuesday’s school massacre.
‘Here’s the shooter’s Reddit,’ the user posted on 4chan along with a link to Sam’s personal Reddit account shortly after Salvador Ramos, 18, opened fire on Robb Elementary School, killing 19 children and two teachers.
Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, of Arizona, helped spread the rumor by posting on Twitter that the gunman was a ‘transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos.’ Gosar’s tweet has since been deleted and he did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
However, despite Gosar removing his tweet, Sam’s photo continues to be shared online.
‘This isn’t the first time I was harassed, but it is the first time I’ve been accused of murder,’ Sam told NBC News on Wednesday.
Sam claims she has been facing growing threats of harassment as the photos, which were ripped from her personal Instagram account, continue to be shared.
On Tuesday, in an effort to stop further spread of lies, Sam posted a photo of herself on Reddit standing in front of a trans pride flag.
‘It’s not me, I don’t even live in Texas,’ she wrote, adding that she just wants ‘to live without being attacked when I leave my house.’
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, are reportedly removing the posts falsely identifying Sam as the shooter because the content violates its Bullying & Harassment policy, which forbids posts ‘in which criminal allegations pose off-line harm to the named individual.’
Twitter, issuing a statement to NBC, said: ‘In line with our hateful conduct policy, we will require the removal of Tweets that share misleading claims about the identity of the perpetrator with the intent to incite fear or spread fearful stereotypes about a protected category.
‘In line with our synthetic and manipulated media policy, we will require Tweets to be removed if they contain media that present false or misleading context surrounding the identity of the perpetrator.’
However, Sam alleges the social media platforms are not doing much to take action and have instead relied on her to flag the content.
‘They’ve been relying on me and others to report the misinformation before doing anything,’ she told the news outlet.
Sam said that while she is fearful for her own safety, she is also concerned for the victims of Tuesday’s massacre and their loved ones.
‘I’m more worried about the families of the victims of the attack,’ she stated.
She also encouraged people to be cautious about what they see or read on the internet.
‘Transphobic people exist and people are quick to blame someone for terrible things instead of looking for the truth about what actually happened,’ Sam said.
While Gosar has since deleted his tweet suggesting that Sam was Ramos, other prominent figures still continue to spread the narrative.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was successfully sued for defamation after alleging the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, accused the Texas shooter of being trans.
Conservative political analyst Candace Owens referenced a ‘cross-dressing’ photo she had seen on the suspect on Wednesday. However, the photos were not actually of Ramos.
Owens has previously been flagged by Facebook for alleging sharing falsehoods on her public profile. She also unsuccessfully sued the platform last year after it added a fact-checking warning to one of her posts.
According to Trans Safety Network, a UK-based group that monitors online threats made against trans people, there are photos of at least three trans woman, including Sam, being inaccurately linked to the shooter.
The group claims that all three woman have confirmed they are alive.
Ramos, the shooter, was killed by authorities during Tuesday’s massacre. Nothing has emerged about his sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ramos had warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and was going to target a school.
He had legally bought two such rifles just days before the attack, soon after his 18th birthday, authorities said.
About 30 minutes before the bloodbath, Ramos made three social media posts, Governor Gregg Abbot said.
According to the governor, he posted that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then that he had shot the woman, and finally that he was going to shoot up an elementary school.
Abbott said Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles west of San Antonio, had no known criminal or mental health history.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the massacre. Seventeen people were injured.
Christopher Olivarez, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told CNN that all of those killed were in the same fourth-grade classroom.
The killer ‘barricaded himself by locking the door and just started shooting children and teachers that were inside that classroom’ Olivarez said. ‘It just shows you the complete evil of the shooter.’
Law enforcement officers eventually broke into the classroom and killed the gunman.
Police and others responding to the attack also went around breaking windows at the school to enable students and teachers to escape.
Investigators do not yet know why Ramos targeted the school, Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday.
‘We don’t see a motive or catalyst right now,’ he said.
However, the teen has seemingly been vocal about his passion for weapons.
His former Wendy’s co-worker, Grace Cruz, 18, told The Sun she worked with the ‘demented’ teen at the fast-food chain restaurant in Uvalde, Texas, located just minutes from Robb Elementary School – the site of his mass shooting.
She claimed Ramos openly talked about using the money he earned at Wendy’s to purchase guns and ammo, adding that he ‘suddenly quit’ weeks before Tuesday’s shooting.
‘He told us he was saving up money for guns and ammo. We would ask him, ‘Why would you spend your money on that, spend it on a car or something useful,’ Cruz said. ‘I guess once he got enough money, he quit and stopped showing up.’
Cruz also stated she thought he suffered from mental illness.
‘He had mental problems, emotional problems, personal problems, every type of problem,’ she said.
Ramos bought two AR-15 assault rifles, bragged about them on social media and suggested he would commit an atrocity before the deadly attack. He spent an estimated $4,000 on the weapons, ammunition and a tactical-style vest
Another one of his former colleagues, who speaking on the condition of anonymity, claimed he had an ‘aggressive streak’ and had would send inappropriate messages to female co-workers.
‘He would be very rude towards the girls sometimes, and one of the cooks, threatening them by asking, ‘Do you know who I am?” the young woman, who worked with Ramos until March, told The Daily Beast. ‘And he would also send inappropriate texts to the ladies.’
She also claimed he would engage in fights at local parks.
‘At the park, there’d be videos of him trying to fight people with boxing gloves. He’d take them around with him,’ she added.
Ramos also bragged about buying two assault rifles on social media and suggested he would commit an atrocity before the deadly attack.
On the day he bought his second weapon last week, an Instagram account that investigators say apparently belong to Ramos carried a photo of two AR-style rifles.
Ramos apparently tagged another Instagram user, one with more than 10,000 followers, asking her to share the picture with her followers.
‘I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,’ replied the Instagram user, who has since removed her profile. ‘It’s just scary.’
On the morning of the attack, the account linked to the gunman replied: ‘I’m about to.’
Instagram has confirmed it is working with law enforcement to review the account but declined to answer questions about the postings.
Investigators are also looking at an account on TikTok, possibly belonging to the shooter, with a profile that reads: ‘Kids be scared IRL,’ an acronym meaning ‘in real life’.
Officers found one of the rifles in Ramos’ truck and the other in the school, according to the briefing given to lawmakers.
Ramos was wearing a tactical vest but it had no hardened body-armor plates inside, lawmakers were told. He also dropped a backpack containing several magazines full of ammunition near the school entrance.
One of the guns was purchased at a federally licensed dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17, according to state Senator John Whitmire, who was briefed by investigators. Ramos bought 375 rounds of ammunition the next day, then purchased the second rifle last Friday.
On Tuesday morning, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother, then fled the scene, crashing his truck near the school and entering the building, authorities said.
Dillon Silva, whose nephew was in a nearby classroom, said students were watching the Disney movie Moana when they heard several loud pops and a bullet shattered a window. Moments later, their teacher saw the attacker stride past the door.
‘Oh, my God, he has a gun!’ the teacher shouted twice, according to Silva. ‘The teacher didn’t even have time to lock the door,’ he said.
A tactical team forced its way into the classroom where the attacker was holed up and was met with gunfire from Ramos but shot and killed him.
Uvalde, home to about 16,000 people, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Mexican border. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grades, is a single-story brick structure in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.
The close-knit community, built around a shaded central square, includes many Hispanic families who have lived there for generations.
It sits amid fields of cabbage, onions, carrots and other vegetables. But many of the steadiest jobs are supplied by companies that produce construction materials.
The attack came as the school was counting down to the last days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was to be ‘Footloose and Fancy,’ with students wearing nice outfits.
The attack was the deadliest school shooting in the US since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
The bloodshed was the latest in a seemingly unending string of mass killings at churches, schools, stores and other sites in the United States. Just 10 days earlier, 10 black people were shot to death in a racist rampage at a Buffalo supermarket.
In a sombre address to the nation hours after the attack in Texas, President Joe Biden pleaded for Americans to ‘stand up to the gun lobby’ and enact tougher restrictions, saying: ‘When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done?’
But the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations appeared dim. Repeated attempts over the years to expand background checks and enact other curbs have run into Republican opposition in Congress.
Texas, which has some of the most gun-friendly laws in the nation, has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the U.S. over the past five years.
In 2018, a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area.
A year before that, a gunman shot more than two dozen people to death during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs.
In 2019, a gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack targeting Hispanics.
The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston.
The governor and both of Texas’ U.S. senators, all of them Republicans, were among the scheduled speakers at a forum Friday.