The Michigan man who gunned down his wife, nearly killed their daughter and was fatally shot by police had fallen down a “rabbit hole” of conspiracy theories leading up to the shooting, his other daughter said.
Igor Lanis, 53, believed “deep state” forces stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump, staged mass shootings and the "fake" Jan. 6 riot, and hatched plots to harm Americans with vaccines and 5G technology, Rebecca Lanis said Wednesday.
Igor Lanis, a suburban Detroit auto industry employee, was arguing with his wife, Tina Lanis, 56, and daughter Rachel Lanis, 25, early Sunday when the two women were about to drive away from their home — but not before he opened fire with a shotgun, Rebecca Lanis said.
Rebecca Lanis, 21, who wasn't home at the time of the shooting, said she doesn't know what sparked the argument that turned deadly.
“They were both going to leave. My mom was grabbing something in the house before they were leaving," she said. "As my sister was waiting in the porch, my dad shot her, my sister. Then he also shot my mom.”
The murder in Walled Lake, Michigan
Rachel Lanis called 911 at about 4:11 a.m. Sunday and “stated that she had just been shot by her father” on Glenwood Drive in Walled Lake, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
When deputies and Walled Lake police arrived, Igor Lanis came out the front door with a Remington 870 pump action shotgun and shot at officers before they returned fire and killed him, the sheriff’s office said.
Tina Lanis was found dead, “shot multiple times in the back, and it appears that she was also attempting to flee out of the front door,” the sheriff’s office said.
The family dog, Sammy, also was found dead, shot multiple times.
Rebecca Lanis suspects her father, her mother and her sister could have been arguing about politics or conspiracy theories, but she hasn't asked her surviving sister.
“I just didn't want to know. I don’t really want to know," she said.
Rebecca Lanis said she wished she had been there early Sunday, believing she could have quickly ushered her sister and mother to safety.
"I kind of wonder if I could have driven up there at 4 and then they could have run into my car and we could have driven away," she said. "I don’t know."
Trump’s 2020 loss marked a turning point
The gunman worked as an auto parts designer, watched Fox News Channel and supported Trump — nothing out of the ordinary in this suburb about 30 miles northwest of Detroit.
"In 2016, he was more normal," Rebecca Lanis said. "I mean, he liked Trump, but he wasn’t crazy. But then 2020 came."
After President Joe Biden's victory, the gunman fully bought into Trump's lies about a stolen election, his daughter said.
“In 2020, after the election, he started going insane. He went off the deep end," Rebecca Lanis said. "He started going down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and QAnon. First it started with the ‘stolen election,’ and then he started talking about worse things, 5G, the vaccine, just everything."
She said he began to believe that the "deep state stole the election and that there’s a worldwide cabal out to get conservatives.”
QAnon, deep state and anti-vaccine beliefs
Rebecca Lanis primarily blamed her father’s worsening mental state on QAnon, the false but widespread conspiracy theory about — among many other things — Trump’s leading a top-secret war on a cabal of pedophiles and criminals.
"He thought that the vaccines were going to kill us, that they really didn't work, and that 5G was out there to harm people," she said.
The gunman's TV habits also changed over the past two years as he leaned away from Fox News, his daughter said. Since Nov. 3, 2020, Trump had signaled to supporters that they should stop watching the conservative cable news channel.
Trump was enraged that Fox News called the race in Arizona for Biden.
"He used to only watch Fox News, but then he started watching OAN and Newsmax," Rebecca Lanis said. "He thought [Fox News was] too lenient or not telling the truth."
She said she has no qualms about blaming her mom's slaying on purveyors of conspiracy theories.
"Yes, and I also hold the social media sites responsible for not doing anything about it," she said.
"It started getting a lot worse” after 2020, she said, “and then, I guess now, it got to the worst point it could ever get to."
No motive yet, sheriff's investigators said
The Oakland County Sheriff's Department has declined this week to speculate on what might have prompted Igor Lanis to open fire.
"We are examining his phone and other electronic devices to determine a possible motive," sheriff's spokesman Stephen Huber said in statement Wednesday. "We will update as necessary."
Central Michigan University philosophy professor Joshua Smith, who studies misinformation and teaches courses in justified belief, said he was saddened by the conditions that led to the violence in Walled Lake — but hardly surprised.
“It’s tragic and all too avoidable,” Smith said.
“Unfortunately, lots of the discourse around these things is incredibly toxic,” he said. “It’s really easy to just start yelling at people when they disagree with you and when they think things are problematic."
Although it’s difficult, Smith said, he believes it's still possible to reach those who have been sucked into the world of conspiracy theories.
"One of things I like to tell my students is when we’re interpreting others, trying to figure what they’re saying, we need to do so charitably,” he said.
QAnon and other conspiracy theories have torn apart families across America and occasionally led to violence.
Federal prosecutors last year accused a California surfing school owner of killing his two children in Mexico. The suspect, Matthew Taylor Coleman, was a follower of QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories who thought the children “were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them,” authorities have said.
And a Florida woman is alleged to have killed a fellow QAnon believer in 2020, believing the victim had been conspiring with the government in a child custody case.