In June 2022, we were asked by readers to look at a Facebook post that was being copied and pasted. The viral post claimed that a woman pulled out a pistol while attending a party at an apartment complex in Charleston, West Virginia, shooting and killing a convicted felon named Dennis Butler after he began firing an AR-15 at the crowd. CNN, ABC News, NBC News, MSNBC, and “other liberal news outlets” did not report the news, the post claimed. While many of the major details in the post were indeed correct, it did contain several minor inaccuracies.
Butler’s apparent attempt to gun down partygoers in West Virginia came just one day after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. The Uvalde incident resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two adults. At least seventeen others were wounded, including both children and adults. The tragic shooting reignited the debate over enacting stricter gun control laws in the U.S.
The Facebook Post
At least two posts on Facebook that featured the copy-and-paste story received thousands of shares. One of those posts appeared on a Facebook page named WE R PRO 2. This indicated that strong supporters of the Second Amendment were using the Charleston shooting in order to advance their opinions on the role of guns in American society. In the same way, those who support stricter gun control measures were using the Uvalde school shooting to advance their case.
The copy-and-paste Facebook post that’s in question in this fact check read as follows:
On Friday, May 27, 2022, 4-time convicted felon Dennis Butler, opened fire on a graduation party in Charleston, West Virginia with a stolen AR-15. A woman (inset), pulled her legally owned and registered handgun from her purse and shot him dead before anyone was injured. I’m sorry I couldn’t post this earlier, however, I couldn’t find anything about it on CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, or any of the other Liberal news outlets.
According to police, it’s true that a woman, who was not identified, really did shoot and kill Butler after he began firing an AR-15-style rifle at a crowd that had gathered for a birthday-graduation party in West Virginia, according to reporting from The Associated Press. The shooting occurred on May 25 (not May 27 as was stated in the Facebook posts).
Other than Butler’s death, there were no other injuries. WRAL.com reported that Lt. Tony Hazelett with the Charleston Police Department said the woman prevented “a mass casualty incident,” stopping “the threat of probably 20 or 30 people getting killed.”
WRAL.com also published that the woman was “carrying her firearm lawfully.” We didn’t find any reporting to confirm that the woman specifically pulled the pistol from a purse, as was mentioned in the Facebook posts. However, this was a small and rather unimportant detail.
As for Butler’s criminal history, WCHSTV.com reported that he was a convicted felon, just as the posts claimed. We are still in the process of confirming with police whether he was in fact, a “four-time” convicted felon, as well as whether the AR-15-style rifle he used was indeed “stolen.”
CNN, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC
The Facebook posts were also at least somewhat correct about the lack of reporting. We were unable to locate any evidence that CNN, NBC News, or MSNBC had reported the news, whether on their websites, in online videos, or on broadcasts for television.
ABC News did, in fact, report on the shooting by republishing the story from The AP.
As for NBC News, we found no published articles about the shooting or Butler’s death on NBCNews.com or in transcripts from any of NBC’s national broadcasts. At the same time, we did notice that the story from The AP was republished by NBCChicago.com, NBCNewYork.com, and other local news websites. The AP’s story was also republished on CBSNews.com. In other words, the news about Butler, a man who fired an AR-15-style rifle into a crowd, who was shot and taken down by a woman with a pistol, was readily available on multiple well-known news websites.
‘Children Were Playing’
According to The AP, police said that Butler had been warned earlier in the evening by unidentified persons to slow his driving because “children were playing” nearby at the apartment complex. He later returned with the AR-15-style rifle and began firing:
Dennis Butler, 37, was killed Wednesday night after he pulled out the rifle and began shooting at dozens of people attending the birthday-graduation party outside an apartment complex in the city of Charleston, police said in a statement.
The woman, who was attending the party, drew a pistol and fired, killing Butler, the statement said. No one at the party was injured.
“Instead of running from the threat, she engaged with the threat and saved several lives last night,” Chief of Detectives Tony Hazelett told news outlets Thursday.
Butler was at the apartment complex earlier in the evening in a vehicle and had been warned to slow down because children were playing, police said. They said he left, but returned later, parked in front of the complex and began firing.
The reporting said that no charges would be filed against the woman who killed Butler.
In sum, the woman did, according to police, shoot and kill Butler with a pistol while he was firing an AR-15-style rifle into a crowd, very likely preventing a mass casualty incident. However, the popular copy-and-paste Facebook post that described the shooting included a few inaccuracies. For the reasons described above, we chose a rating of “Mostly True.”
Aaron, Bob. “Court Records: Man Killed in Charleston Shooting Had Extensive Criminal History.” WCHSTV.com, 26 May 2022, https://wchstv.com/news/local/man-killed-in-charleston-shooting-had-extensive-criminal-history-in-wva-and-pa.
Charles, Patrick J. “Second Amendment.” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Second-Amendment.
Coronado, Acacia, and Jim Vertuno. “Gunman Kills 19 Children, 2 Adults in Texas School Rampage.” Snopes.com via The Associated Press, 24 May 2022, https://www.snopes.com/ap/2022/05/25/gunman-kills-19-children-2-adults-in-texas-school-rampage/.
Dindak, Danielle. “Charleston Shooting Leads to Questions over City’s Grip on Gun Crimes.” WCHSTV.com, 26 May 2022, https://wchstv.com/news/local/charleston-shooting-leads-to-questions-over-citys-grip-on-gun-crimes.
Gans, Jared. “David Hogg: Attitudes on Gun Control ‘Changing for What Feels like the First Time.’” The Hill, 10 June 2022, https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/3519201-david-hogg-attitudes-on-gun-control-changing-for-what-feels-like-the-first-time/.
La Corte, Rachel, and Andrew DeMillo. “States Divided on Gun Controls, Even As Mass Shootings Rise.” Snopes.com via The Associated Press, 26 May 2022, https://www.snopes.com/ap/2022/05/26/states-divided-on-gun-controls-even-as-mass-shootings-rise/.
McGee, Kate. “Five Injured Victims Remain Hospitalized One Week after Uvalde School Shooting.” The Texas Tribune, 1 June 2022, https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/01/uvalde-shooting-injured-update/.
NBC News Channel. “Woman Credited with Stopping Mass Shooting at Apartment Complex in West Virginia :” WRAL.com, 30 May 2022, https://www.wral.com/woman-credited-with-stopping-mass-shooting-at-apartment-complex-in-west-virginia/20306891/.
“Police: Woman Killed Man Who Fired Rifle into Party Crowd.” AP News, 26 May 2022, https://apnews.com/article/politics-police-shootings-west-virginia-1c089b5ba0ca83f05603cf0cce184c8d.
“—.” ABC News via The Associated Press, 26 May 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-woman-killed-man-fired-rifle-party-crowd-85002437.
“Police: Woman Killed Man Who Fired Rifle into Party Crowd in West Virginia.” CBS News via The Associated Press, 26 May 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/pittsburgh/news/charleston-woman-kills-man-fired-rifle-party-crowd/.
“Woman Fatally Shot Man Who Fired Rifle Into Party Crowd: Police.” NBC Chicago via The Associated Press, 26 May 2022, https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/woman-fatally-shot-man-who-fired-rifle-into-party-crowd-police/2843926/.
“—.” NBC New York via The Associated Press, 26 May 2022, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/woman-fatally-shot-man-who-fired-rifle-into-party-crowd-police/3709311/.