In April 2016, a claim about a man who supposedly beat two men to death with his bare hands began circulating on Facebook:
While the image was wildly popular on Facebook, not one version of it included any information substantiating its claims. We were unable to locate any news stories or public records matching the details of the rumor, nor any recent records of a retired U.S. Army sergeant named Gregory Hayes. A reverse image search didn’t turn up any results for the photograph of the purported Sgt. Hayes, either.
One commenter claimed that the image was of a man named Paul Reed, which we were also unable to substantiate:
1) This is a picture of a man named Paul Reed. (2) The only result for a ‘Gregory Hayes’ being charged with murder in the entire US is a black man from St. Louis who stabbed a University student. (3) There have been exactly ZERO rapes in the US by Syrians under section 209.(a). (4) Using the premise of a veteran to somehow validate your cause is shameful and ignorant.
In addition to there being no record of Hayes’ existence (and a photograph that didn’t suggest the individual depicted was a retired sergeant), the number of Syrian refugees present in the United States is quite low. According to the United States Department of State records, 2,456 total Syrian refugees entered the United States in 2015 and 2016 (3.6 percent of a total of 67,485 refugees).
On 21 April 2016 were contacted by an individual who provided a screenshot of a Facebook page ostensibly showing that the photograph of “Sgt. Gregory Hayes” depicts a man with an entirely different name whose picture was appropriated by the meme’s makers (presumably without his permission):
We found no information to substantiate the claim that Sgt. Gregory Hayes existed, much less that he beat two Syrian refugees to death for sexually assaulting his teenaged daughter. No dates, locations, or other information has come to light about either purported crime, and no matching incidents or arrests were reported in any jurisdiction we could find.