Fact Check

Did the Same 'Crisis Actor' Play the Mother and Victim in Three Different Mass Shootings?

Three women who have suffered grievously deserve more respect than to be made the subject of japes or ridiculous conspiracy musings.

Published Nov. 10, 2018

The same woman appeared on television as the victim or mother of children killed in three different mass shootings.

On the evening of 7 November 2018, the Southern California community of Thousand Oaks -- which is regular ranked as one of the safest cities in the U.S. -- was rocked by a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill that left twelve people dead.

As the nation mourned yet another tragic loss of multiple innocent lives, social media unfortunately experienced a resurgence of the "crisis actor" rumor in connection with the shooting -- a conspiracy theory holding that professional actors are hired to perpetrate hoaxes by portraying victims and grieving relatives of staged shootings.

In this particular case, one Facebook meme held that the very same woman had been on the news as either the victim or the mother of a murdered child in three separate mass shootings widely separate in time and space: the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the October 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, and the November 2018 Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks:

We have to assume this meme was intended as a spoof of the "crisis actor" conspiracy theory, as the women it pictures are clearly three different people who look nothing alike.

The woman pictured at the top of this meme is Jan Lambourne, a resident of Manitoba who was seriously wounded by gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest festival.

The woman whose photograph appears in the bottom left is Susan Schmidt-Orfano, whose 27-year-old son Telemachus was killed in the Borderline shooting.

The woman pictured at the bottom right is Christine Leinonen, whose only son, 32-year-old Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, was fatally shot in the Pulse massacre.

These three women deserve more respect than to be made the subject of japes or ridiculous conspiracy musings.


Bernhardt, Darren.   "Wounded Manitoban Hid Under Wheelbarrow to Survive Las Vegas Massacre."     CBC News.   3 October 2017.

BBC News.   "Orlando shootings: Grieving Mother Begs for Gun Law Change."     13 June 2016.

BBC News.   "Thousand Oaks: Las Vegas Shooting Survivor Among Dead."     9 November 2018.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.