Fact Check

Las Vegas Shooting Rumors, Hoaxes, and Conspiracy Theories

The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history has led to a cacophony of rumors, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.

Published Oct. 5, 2017

 (Robert Cravens / Shutterstock.com)
Image courtesy of Robert Cravens / Shutterstock.com
We investigated a number of hoaxes, rumors, and conspiracy theories associated with a mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip on 1 October 2017.

On 1 October 2017, a shooter opened fire on an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. As is often the case with major or tragic events, rumors immediately began to flow, even before the shooting ended and the investigation began.

The shooting began just after 10 P.M. local time (or after midnight on 2 October 2017 on the East Coast). Many of the claims circulated during prior mass shootings and reflected "tropes" commonly invoked by such events, and others were unique to the incident and circumstances:

Was the Islamic State responsible for the Las Vegas massacre?

Although outbreaks of violence are frequently attributed to the Islamic State before an initial investigation takes place, a propaganda arm for the group attempted to claim responsibility for the attack. However, investigators quickly ruled out their involvement in the shooting.

What about antifa? Did they claim responsibility?

No. A Facebook page claiming to be run by antifa operatives in Melbourne, Australia posted and then deleted a status update essentially blaming the massacre on American antifa protesters. However, credible news sources and the group itself pegged the Facebook source as phony before the Las Vegas shooting.

Did eagle-eyed web sleuths unmask the shooter at an anti-Trump rally?

Also no. Photographs of a Trump protester circulating on social media do not show the Vegas gunman:

A separate screenshot listing off the gunman's purported "Facebook likes" circulated on social media, but there was no evidence its claims were accurate or credible:

stephen craig paddock facebook

Did a "mysterious woman" filter through the crowd, screaming warnings about the shooting forty-five minutes before it happened?

Oftentimes, initial compelling rumors continue spreading long after a mundane explanation has emerged. Many social media users heard about an eerie warning spread by a visibly agitated woman nearly an hour prior to the massacre, but far fewer saw that the witness to that purported prediction later walked her claims back significantly.

Are there unanswered questions about whether there was a "second shooter," multiple shooters, or from where the bullets were fired?

No. The concept of a "second shooter" became embedded in American consciousness after the first conspiracy rumors circulated about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A meme that appeared after this particular mass shooting highlights purported "inconsistencies" in the "narrative" of the incident, but it does not vary much from the other conspiracy theories that come up after every such incident:

stephen paddock let me get this straight

Similar rumors take root in the wake of nearly all mass shootings, but neither investigators nor any evidence has indicated that anyone other than Stephen Paddock fired into the crowd at the concert.

Police in Las Vegas specifically and explicitly debunked the claim:

The rumor of a second shooter during the mass shooting in Las Vegas ... received so much attention, Las Vegas police addressed it at a [3 October 2017] news conference.

"I want to emphasize Paddock is solely responsible for this heinous act. We are aware of the rumors outside of the media and also on social media that there was more than one assailant," said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said.

He said, there was no evidence to support the theory of another shooter.

Did CBS fire a lawyer after she made insensitive comments about the tragedy on social media?

Yes. CBS attorney Hayley Geftman-Gold was relieved of her duties after a controversy after post-shooting remarks attributed to her were captured and publicized by a blog.

Was a stirring personal eyewitness account in circulation on Facebook accurate and legitimate?

A status update was widely shared as a "silver lining" after the massacre:

Thomas Gunderson
October 2 at 4:48am ·
I want to say this right now while it's fresh. People PLEASE listen to me! There are bad people in this world, but tonight, I saw every race and gender come together to save lives and protect each other. I had women tie my leg up to stop the bleeding, I had men carrying me on their back to safety and I had many black officers and civilians holding my hand and staying with me every second of the way. Our president is far from perfect, but the divide this country is being created by media and the select few cases that they spread world wide. But you don't get to see the good in people. I'm lying in my hospital bed right now in tears, not because I'm injured but because I did my best to save lives and not once did I see color or gender. Nor did anyone else. My friends, please please take a step back, turn off the tv and go love the person next to you. Black, white, Mexican, straight, gay or anything else. Love on them and show that we are united as one in this country and NO ONE, no matter how hard they try, can't break us! Ever!

Its veracity remains unclear at this time.

Did graphic leaked images of the crime scene at Mandalay Bay emerge on social media?

On 3 October 2017, a Facebook post appeared featuring purportedly leaked crime scene photographs of the Mandalay Bay room from which the shots were fired:


The authenticity of the photographs is unknown, and it is not clear whether they were leaked (versus being taken by a bystander or obtained in a fashion other than surreptitious distribution).

Was the shooter one of many mass shooters impacted by the side effects of psychotropic medications?

Another claim common in circulation after the Las Vegas massacre was that mass shooters are affected by psychotropic drugs such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, or anti-psychotic medications:

We found no evidence that any of the individuals shown here were credibly suspected to have suffered a psychiatric episode due to reported use of the substance(s).

Does a series of photographs depict a brave concertgoer defiantly giving the finger to the shooter?


Is a woman's purported eyewitness account of multiple shooting incidents having been "scrubbed" from the web accurate?

On 3 October 2017, Facebook user Rikki Raulerson shared the following Facebook status update, the contents of which are unverified:

So here goes.... Especially to those of you saying to stop talking about this, stop making assumptions etc.

Call me crazy, call me dramatic, call me whatever you want. I'm posting this for those of us who were on the strip Sunday night, who know what we saw and what we were told by police officers, security guards, and even the local news when all of this madness started. And I am posting this in hopes of informing others who have believed everything they've seen on the news. If while leaving the Cosmopolitan, we had been told there was one shooting at the Mandalay Bay, Anthony and I would have not been worried for our lives and we would have continued to go out, knowing we weren't headed to that particular area of the strip. But that's not what we were told. We were told that there were 7 confirmed shooters, and confirmed deaths at multiple hotels. Including Bellagio, the Aria and New York New York. Being told this by a security guard, who then told us to go to the third floor for safety. However, Anthony says, "No Rikki. This is a very popular hotel, I don't feel like the third floor of this popular hotel in public is the safest place. We're going to try and get out of here right now." Running back to our hotel next door, Vdara, we are told once again by police/security checking our id and room key, "yes multiple hotels effected. Go to your room and do not leave." We then get to the room, immediately turn on the news and start watching out of our windows to figure out what is going on. The news also states, live, that the Bellagio had been effected and there was one confirmed death.

Now... skip ahead about an hour. The news is no longer stating anything about the other hotels effected. They say it is one person. Every bit of info that was being initially given to us was disappearing. We could physically see from our window view, fire alarms going off at the cosmopolitan, and multiple cop cars and ambulances pulling up there as well. We wanted more information about what was happening at these other hotels right next to us, and we weren't getting it. And we still aren't.
Monday morning I am of course telling my friends and family about our experience, and I was starting to really feel like I was crazy. Everyone was telling me there was only one shooter, and I just couldn't understand what I had seen. Finally, other people like myself started speaking out. I was relieved to know that I wasn't crazy, but now just as confused as to why the media is trying to hide this information. There are now videos and statements popping up all over the web, showing proof of other shooters and other effected hotels.

Why are they trying to hide this?! If for no other reason, think about being a family member of the others who died or were injured at these other hotels. They deserve the respect, and the truth as to what happened to their loved ones.

Now, can we please stop talking about Gun Control for just a few minutes, and figure out what is really going on here? Figure out the real motive of this incident, and inform people of the truth. Laws can be put in place for anything and everything. There will always be people who break them. And especially with all of the technology we have now days, it is not very hard to find anything you want. Whether it's an illegal weapon, drugs, anything. Laws will always be broken. So let's stop pretending this incident wouldn't have happened if more laws were in place, but instead demand the truth about what really happened that night, and why? Don't be so naive.

Although this rumor is a variation on the "second shooter" claim, it also fails to take into account the difficulties faced by eyewitnesses in identifying the specifics of the shooting as it happened.

Due to the close proximity most Vegas casinos share (many are connected to neighboring venues) and the acoustics of the Strip, a barrage of gunfire from one location could easily be mistaken for one from somewhere nearby.

Did a 4chan user "predict" the Las Vegas mass shooting?

Unproven. The post in question was nebulous, and still managed to inaccurately describe the subsequent attack. Although the general location (the Las Vegas strip) fit the prognostication, no other elements were compelling enough to consider the claim credible.

Did Michele Bachman say the shooting was avoidable for those who observed the Sabbath and stayed home?

No. Although the meme's origin was unknown, it was one of many satirizing Bachmann's positions.

Was a security guard at Mandalay Bay an accomplice to the shooting?

No. A disreputable source claimed that Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos was an "accomplice" to Las Vegas Strip mass shooter Stephen Paddock, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) put paid to the phony story with alacrity.

Did a company called "Crowds On Demand" put out a call for "crisis actors" just before the Las Vegas mass shooting?

For the most part, no. Conspiracies swirled arround a Las Vegas Craigslist ad archived on 17 August 2017; date stamps suggest it was published on or around 3 August 2017:

crowds on demand vegas crisis actors

On 6 October 2017, Puppet String News claimed:

Once again we have a tragic event in America, and just like massive protests across America the Las Vegas shooting had ads for actors on Crowds On Demand back in August before the shooting. Two things seem to pop up after major events take place in America in the last year or so, and that is we get a fucked up investigation and there always seems to be ads for actors before an event like the Las Vegas shooting. So now we have new evidence with crisis actors being looked for on Craigslist and Crowds On Demand a month before the Las Vegas event...I think it's time we launch an investigation into Crowds On Demand don't you?

WorldTruth.tv asserted the same day (in a post riddled with typographical errors) that the suspicious advertisement had conveniently been deleted after the Las Vegas shooting:

A California based company called ‘Crowds on Demand’ placed an advert back in August for ‘crisi actors in the Las Vegas area.

The adverts, which has since been removed, advertised for protests, Rallies, Audiences, PR Stunts, and Celebrity Events.

Crowds on Demand had also placed the same advert on Backstage.com, and as of today, it is still online:Note the wording – “attending a show/concert” ... So is it just a coincidence that 6 weeks before the La Vegas shooting farce, we have a notorious company known for hiring crisis actors placing adverts to recruit people as crisis actors for an unspecified event in Las Vegas?

However, all Craigslist posts expire automatically after 30 to 45 days. Even going by the latest date the post was archived (19 August 2017) and not the likely date it was posted (3 August 2017), 49 days passed between the date of the post and 6 October 2017 and two months between the posting date and the 1 October 2017 shooting.

Moreover, anti-semitic conspiracy theorists previously set their sights on the same posting -- as part of predictions that bad actors planned chaos for the then-recent Mayweather/McGregor bout. Another post in a general conspiracy forum warned:

It's obvious to most that a race war is being pushed. The McGregor/Mayweather fight could be used as a catalyst for such. Mayweather has already planted seeds by calling McGregor racist (even though Floyd referred to Pacquiao as a little yellow monkey).

Today an ad was found on Craigslist looking for crisis actors in Vegas. It's been up for two weeks. A friend called, and the dates these "actors" are needed is Aug 25th - Aug 27th.

Awfully coincidental, eh?

Be careful ya'll, remember to let your love and light shine above all else.

Even after Vegas shooting conspiracies had begun circulating, forum posters recalled the post as linked to the boxing match. Although there was some confusion, posters for the most part correctly identified the Craigslist post as dated to early August 2017. The advertisement was legitimate, but it was retrofitted to align with false flag theories about the Vegas shooting and its original connotations (fizzled predictions about a "race war" at a boxing match) were elided in the retelling. Claims that it "disappeared" were down to the fact the page was more than 45 days old at the time it recaptured social media attention.


Bleakley, Caroline.   "Las Vegas Police Debunk Second Shooter Rumor."     KLAS-TV.   4 October 2017.

Burbeck, Lynn.   "How Long Does An Ad Stay On Craigslist?"     Chron.com.   Accessed 11 October 2017.

Harasim, Paul.   "Las Vegas Strip Shooter Prescribed Anti-Anxiety Drug In June."     Las Vegas Review-Journal.   3 October 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.