Santa Fe, TX – It turns out that a substitute teacher who was featured in numerous media accounts for his heroic efforts to save students during the massacre at Santa Fe High School wasn’t actually a teacher or there when the shootings occurred.
The Texas Tribune was contacted by David Briscoe in April.
The Santa Fe school shooting survivor was touching base to see if the publication was interested in an interview a year after the massacre when there were some survivor suicides associated with other school shootings.
Briscoe had been featured as a hero who protected his remedial English students and ordered them to get down as the shooter blasted his way through the high school.
Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and just about every other mainstream media outlet published elaborate accounts of how the substitute teacher turned off the lights in his classroom, barricaded the door, and directed his students to muffle their screams with their hands, the Texas Tribune reported.
Briscoe told the Texas Tribune that he had quit his job with the Santa Fe Independent School District, where he had worked for three months, right after the shootings and moved to Florida.
He said he had given up teaching altogether in the wake of the tragedy and said he could never again set foot in the school where 10 students and staff were murdered, and another 13 wounded.
“Just knowing that there’s blood on the walls where you walk at... I don’t think I could go back,” Briscoe told the Texas Tribune.
But something about Briscoe’s story seemed hinky to the Texas Tribune reporter, so the newspaper dug a little deeper before writing.
It didn’t take the reporter many calls to discover that Briscoe wasn’t at Santa Fe High School on the day of the shootings.
In fact, Santa Fe Independent School District (ISD) said that no one by that name had ever been a teacher in their school system, the Texas Tribune reported.
Lindsey Campbell, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district was confident that nobody by that name had been on the campus the day of the shooting.
Galveston County Sheriff’s Lieutenant James Roy investigated the tragedy and said that the shooting had taken place in art rooms, and that there weren’t any English classes on the side of the building where the shooter went on his spree, the Texas Tribune reported.
Lt. Roy also said that Briscoe’s claims to the Texas Tribune that the shots were “very, very loud” sounded wrong, too.
“If he was anywhere other than that hallway [where the shooting took place], I don't think he could’ve heard anything but the fire alarm,” he said.
Public records showed that Briscoe’s home address was in Florida at the time of the Santa Fe High School massacre, and that there was no record of the man ever having lived in Texas, the Texas Tribune reported.
“We are extremely disappointed that an individual that has never been a part of our school community would represent themselves as a survivor of the mass violence tragedy that our community endured,” Santa Fe ISD Superintendent Leigh Wall said. “This situation illustrates how easily misinformation can be created and circulated, especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited due to the still ongoing investigation.”
Most major news outlets removed the references to Briscoe from their stories after they were contacted for comment by the Texas Tribune.
“I don’t know what motivates people to try to take advantage of a tragedy like this,” John Bridges, the executive editor for the Austin American-Statesman told the Texas Tribune. “It’s sick and it’s sad.”
The Austin American-Statesman had also quoted Briscoe.
“Reporters can face significant reporting hurdles in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy,” Bridges said, “and some people unfortunately attempt to take advantage of those situations and try to dupe reporters.”
All of the major media outlets that quoted Briscoe after the tragedy said that that had first contacted him via social media after they saw his posts about what he had done to save his students on Twitter, the Texas Tribune reported.
The Texas Tribune contacted Briscoe to ask him about what they had learned and the man who replied claimed he had never spoken to the publication before or pretended to be a Santa Fe High School shooting survivor.
When he was confronted with audio recordings of his interview where he claimed to have suffered from depression and started drinking heavily after the massacre, Briscoe claimed that an employee handled his social media and had impersonated him.
He told the Texas Tribune he would contact the police.
And then he shut down all of his social media accounts and stopped answering calls.