Parkland community not buying viral story about MSD shooting survivor’s QAnon dad

cruz, nikolas - courtroom
An anonymous Reddit poster claims to be a survivor whose own father doesn't believe the tragedy was real.

Members of the Parkland community have doubts about the veracity of a 691-word post on Reddit getting national attention that purports to be from a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The post describes how a conspiracy-obsessed father believes his son’s description of his traumatic, lived experience of the shooting — crouching in a classroom, fearing for his life — was a paid gig.

“He’s always been very conservative,” the post says of the writer’s father, “but now QAnon has consumed his life to the point where it’s tearing our family apart along with my mental health.”

Other survivors of the shooting are finding the story too much to believe, however.

The trial of the shooter who killed 17 people at the school is coming up. Posting anonymously under “QAnon casualties” in Reddit on July 19, the writer says his father believes the accused, Nikolas Cruz, was “paid to sacrifice his life to remove our guns.” And that the poster, too, was paid to be a part of the scheme.

“You’re a real piece of work to be able to sit here and act like nothing ever happened if it wasn’t a hoax. Shame on you for being part of it and putting your family through it too,” the anonymous Reddit poster writes of his father’s words.

Seven days after the post appeared on Reddit, Vice Media and the New York Post ran a story based on it, identifying the poster as “Bill.” Both news sites said they identified the poster as an MSD shooting survivor but didn’t say how. Saturday, also ran the story of “Bill” as an example of how people “lose” loved ones who become obsessed with QAnon, a disproved, far-right group of conspiracy theorists who muse about the inner workings of the Deep State. That site also said Bill’s identity was confirmed without offering details.

The Reddit post has blown up, with 11,200 “upvotes” and “Bill” hotly taking on the doubters in subsequent posts. He did not respond to a message from Florida Politics.

“This was literally just a spur-of-the-moment rant I thought would reach at most a couple hundred upvotes,” wrote “Bill.” “I’m just trying to make sense of it, and for those saying it’s too insane to be true, that’s fine.”

“Bill” has details in his post that ring true. He says he was a freshman on that Valentine’s Day 2018 when the bullets rang out at his school, and he recently graduated. That timing works out. He says that a magenta T-shirt like the one the shooter was wearing still makes him uncomfortable. But pictures of Cruz apprehended after the shooting are widely available through a Google search.

In the city that’s been defined by those six minutes of chaos ever since, the account seems too incredible.

“I am not certain of the truthfulness of all of it,” Fred Guttenberg said in a text. His daughter, Jaime, was killed in the shooting. He’s since become an activist for gun safety.

Hunter Pollack, whose sister Meadow was killed at the school, does not advocate for the same cause as Guttenberg. He is focused on making schools accountable for safety. He said he thinks anyone who sent their kids to MSD or lives in Parkland could not believe what “Bill” says his father does.

“Impossible,” Pollack said.

But in a subsequent post, “Bill” has some choice words for his doubters.

“I know it’s not the majority, but anyone accusing me of using my trauma to spin a story, f*ck you,” he wrote in a follow-up after the post went viral. “I never planned this blowing up, and I never contacted the media. What the f*ck would I get out of this?”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


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