In May 2018, as a shooter rampaged Santa Fe High School in Texas, David Briscoe, a substitute English teacher at the school, took heroic actions to save his students. He barricaded the door to his classroom with desks and anything else he could find. He turned out the lights and told his students to “get down.” As he and his students remained silent, they heard the screams of those who were being gunned down elsewhere.
A compelling and harrowing tale, to be sure. Except, none of it happened.
The man who called himself David Briscoe told his story to CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and the Austin American-Statesman. All posted his comments and claims.
But in April of this year, Briscoe tried to tell his story to The Texas Tribune. Briscoe talked about the “very, very loud” beginning of the rampage, and how he would never go back to the school because there’s “blood on the walls.” He said he quit teaching after the shooting and moved to Florida.
The Santa Fe Independent School District, however, told the Tribune that no one by the name of David Briscoe had ever been employed there in any capacity.
“We are extremely disappointed that an individual that has never been a part of our school community would represent themselves as a survivor of the mass violence tragedy that our community endured,” said district superintendent Leigh Wall. “This situation illustrates how easily misinformation can be created and circulated, especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited due to the still ongoing investigation.”
Further, Lt. James Roy of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office told the Tribune that the shooting was on the other side of the school from the English classes.
“The best I can tell, we have no record of [Briscoe],” Roy told the outlet.
In addition, Roy said that Briscoe’s claims of hearing the “very, very loud” shots couldn’t be true because he wouldn’t have “heard anything but the fire alarm” from where he was.
The Tribune also found that Briscoe’s home address was in Florida at the time of the shooting and that no record exists of him ever living in Texas.
We’re often told that no one would ever lie about something so horrible, yet these are the situations that people lie about — because it is so easy. No one wants to question a victim, so many people take advantage.
Perhaps the most famous example — which was also noted by the Tribune — involved Tania Head, a woman who claimed she worked for Merrill Lynch in the World Trade Center’s South Tower during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Head claimed she was on the 78th floor when the second plane hit and that her husband, David, was in the first tower. She claimed her arm was severely injured and hanging by a thread and that she had to crawl over body parts and through fire and smoke to survive. She claimed she was rescued by 9/11 hero Welles Crowther and eventually spoke at his memorial service.
She met former New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, as well as former New York Gov. George Pataki. She led tours where she recounted her ordeal and was quoted and featured in countless media articles about the attack.
In reality, Head was in her native Spain when the attacks occurred and never worked for Merrill Lynch.