One of the nine points that OnTheMedia makes in its Breaking News Handbook is this:
4. There’s almost never a second shooter.
For most of Thursday evening and into Friday morning, news reports directly contradicted this claim. So much so that at the end of the day, I was wondering if it would be proved wrong.
The word leading the narrative was “triangulation.”
Police Chief David O. Brown full quote, from AP, Thursday:
We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers from two different [areas] in garages in the downtown area and planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could.
The New York Times, dateline Thursday:
The police believe four suspects coordinated the attack with rifles, Police Chief David O. Brown said, and positioned themselves in triangulated locations near the end of the route the protesters planned to take.
Lede graph, Gawker, Friday morning:
Authorities say they believe the attack in Dallas that killed five police officers and injured six more was carried out by at least four snipers who positioned themselves in “triangulated locations” on rooftops near the end of a Black Lives Matter parade route Thursday.
Police Say Dallas Shooting Was Carried Out by at Least Four Shooters Strategically Positioned on Rooftops https://t.co/fS8GEJFe8v
— Diet Cola News (@DietColaNation) July 8, 2016
Rep. William Hurd, a former CIA intelligence officer on Fox (News) & Friends on Friday morning:
When gunfire started exchanging, you had folks in cross positions that were moving towards the target… The level of coordination, there seemed to be some type of triangulation.
— IyonaBardd (@IyonaBardd) July 8, 2016
Speculation ran wild
THERE IS ACTIVE SHOOTING LIVE IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS TX AS WE SPEAK AND IT IS TOLD THAT FOUR OFFICERS ARE DEAD AND THEIR ARE MULTIPLE SHOOTERS..
— Darris Smith (@DarrisSmith) July 8, 2016
— ₿ Truthraider ✪ (@TruthRaiderHQ) July 8, 2016
Team of military-style shooters showed skills in close quarter combat, killed at least four officers, and got away. That's the story #Dallas
— Chris Safran (@ChrisSafran) July 8, 2016
NEWS UPDATE: #Dallas PD can confirm that there were in total of four shooters involved, all targeting police officers at the same time.
— TheAnonJournal (@TAPAlerts) July 8, 2016
Three Shooters Are in Custody and the Fourth Has Shot Himself https://t.co/lH1HbrXf9S
— Paul Finkelstein,DTM (@paulsteven) July 8, 2016
Was the assessment accurate? Nope.
Dallas police shooting: mayor says Micah Johnson was 'lone shooter' – live updates https://t.co/RKWFQhh5dl
— The Guardian (@guardian) July 8, 2016
- Dallas police shooting live updates: Gunman appears to have acted alone (5:00 pm, July 8, LAT)
- Five Dallas police officers were killed by a lone attacker, authorities say (10.18 pm, July 8, WaPost)
- Dallas sniper was lone gunman, officials say; bomb-making materials, rifles found in home (July 8, DMN)
Which leads to (unanswered) questions:
Can someone tell me what happened to report of FOUR shooters, 3 in custody? Why are we only talking about the 1 dead maggot? #Dallas
— God Bless Texas (@GHalv) July 8, 2016
— Joseph Monhaut (@JMonhaut) July 8, 2016
Remember: if something sounds too good (or too bad) to be true, check before sharing. Because it usually isn’t. True, that is.
And in breaking news cases — perhaps especially those in the United States involving guns — initial news reports are likely to be more wrong than right. Initial statements by investigators … also should be treated as “maybe” not “is”.
Be skeptical, not in a jaundiced sense, but in a realistic sense.
Yesterday’s post: Essential behavior during breaking news events: think before sharing
Featured image: Wikipedia, by Chabster – CC BY 3.0