Breaking News Emails
A day after a competitive video gamer shot and killed two people, wounding 10 others, at a Madden video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, a group of far-right news outlets announced that they had found the Reddit account used by the shooter, who they said used the pseudonym "Ravenchamps."
But the groups were wrong.
"Ravenchamps" did not belong to the shooter, who the police say was a Baltimore resident named David Katz and who killed himself in the shooting. And the announcement caused considerable trouble for the real person who owned the account.
The fringe sites Infowars and Gateway Pundit, plus far-right commentator Mike Cernovich and reporter Ian Miles Cheong, claimed that "Ravenchamps" — similar to Katz's frequent video game username "Ravens2012champs" — was operated by the alleged shooter before his death. They pointed to the account's rhetoric that repeatedly slammed the president, along with other political figures, pointing out a comment where Ravenchamps called users "Trumptards."
But the real owner of the account was a Minnesota native named Pavel, who returned to Reddit on Monday to see dozens of people claiming he was dead.
"I went on Reddit. I noticed I had 60, 70 unread messages. Usually I have two or something," Pavel, who didn't give his last name out of privacy concerns, told NBC News on Monday night. "I look at the messages and it's a bunch of people using my username claiming I'm that Madden shooter person. Half of them are messages like 'I hope that person's dead.'
Responding to a user who said "ravenchamps was his profile, see for yourself," Ravenchamps wrote back.
"I'm alive you know?" he wrote.
Pavel then went to Reddit's AskMeAnything board to answer questions about everything from his favorite TV show to what it was like to have all of his old opinions shared across the web as a possible motive of a mass shooting.
"Confused at first, now I'm just laughing about it," he wrote.
Shortly after Pavel started tweeting, Gateway Pundit appended two question marks to the headline of their story tying him to the shooting, which now reads: "Jacksonville Shooter Was Member of Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’?? – Murdered 3 People (UPDATE)."
This is not the first time Gateway Pundit has misidentified someone who committed an attack or mass shooting. The site said the Charlottesville car attack was conducted by an "anti-Trump protester" who in reality was hundreds of miles away at the time of the attack. The site also named the wrong person in the Las Vegas mass shooting, and spun an elaborate conspiracy based on an anonymous Twitter post which identified the wrong person in a mass shooting at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in January 2017.
Cernovich, an early promoter of the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory who has been touring Arizona with Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward, was cited in the Gateway Pundit article saying Katz was a “member of the Resistance,” pointing to Pavel’s Reddit account. Cernovich has since apologized, adding, “The mass shooter’s Reddit handle is different from one that previously circulated.”
Infowars, a purveyor of conspiracy theories that was recently banned from Facebook and YouTube, blasted "Jacksonville Madden Shooter Criticized 'Trumptards' on Reddit" in their headline, and claimed he "hated Trump supporters."
Pavel, who is mostly on Reddit to talk about football and video games, said he came home from some errands after his factory job on Monday night to learn that all of his comments had been pored over by fringe websites and fellow Reddit users. He praised some users for their "good detective” work, identifying the Minnesota plates on a picture of his Mazda, which he uploaded to a car subreddit years ago.
"Some people really dug in there," he said. "I was like, 'You guys are really interested in me.'"
Pavel, whose identity NBC News was independently able to confirm through a phone records search, said it was the "weirdest Monday, internet-wise" he's ever had, and he was going to spend the rest of the night "making some mixies and calling out some idiots.”
When he refreshed his browser, he had 70 more messages to respond to since the start of the phone call.
"My takeaway on this is there are a lot of idiots on the internet who come to conclusions over no factual evidence," he said.
CORRECTION (Aug. 28, 2018, 1:03 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated Ian Miles Cheong’s affiliation. He was a contributor for the Daily Caller, not a reporter.