Conspiracy theory emerges about Nashville school assailant’s shoes
While families grieve their children and loved ones – gunned down by a person who entered a school in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27, 2023 – certain social media users started circulating rumours that the incident was staged. Some have seized on discrepancies between two different videos of the assailant, one captured by a security camera, another by a police officer. These social media users claim that it looks like the assailant is wearing sneakers made by the brand Vans in one image and Pumas in another, proof, they say, that the whole thing was set up. We were able to determine that the shoes appear different due to the resolution of the videos in question – they are actually the same pair of Vans.
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- The day after three children and three adults were murdered by a person who entered a Nashville elementary school on March 27, 2023, certain corners of the internet started spreading rumours that the entire massacre had been staged.
- Some of these accounts cited two videos shared by the Nashville police that show the assailant. They pointed out that, in one video, the assailant appears to be wearing sneakers made by the brand Vans with red and yellow flames. In other footage, it looks like the assailant is wearing black and white shoes made by Puma.
- They claim this discrepancy is proof that the videos were staged and, thus, that the massacre didn’t occur.
- However, our team was able to examine the full video, which shows that the shoes, which at first glance look like Pumas, are actually Vans. The assailant is wearing the same shoes throughout.
- Indeed, you can’t see the red and yellow flames on the shoes in some of the footage. However, our team spoke to an expert who said that is because of the low resolution of the video and bad lighting.
The fact-check, in detail
In some corners of the internet, people are fixating on the clothes worn by the person who entered a Nashville elementary school and massacred three children and three adults on March 27, 2023.
Certain accounts on Facebook and Twitter have been circulating two different images showing the assailant: one from a video captured by the school’s security footage, the other from a police body camera. These accounts point out something strange – that it looks like the person is wearing two different shoes in the different videos.
In the first image, it looks like the person is wearing a classic style of black and white sneakers sold by the brand Puma. However, in the second image, you can clearly see that the person is wearing sneakers made by the brand Vans with red and yellow flames on them.
Many of these posts also feature screengrabs of the shoes taken from online shops.
These accounts say this alleged discrepancy is proof that the security footage is actually “a pre-recorded training video”, according to this tweet on March 28, 2023, which has been shared more than 5,000 times.
Similar claims have also been circulating on Facebook (like this post from March 28, 2023, which was shared more than 300 times).
Footage from different cameras
This video was then picked up by the press, appearing, for example, in this article from March 28, 2023 by the Canadian media outlet Le Journal de Montréal.
The footage starts showing the assailant in the parking lot. Then, they shoot the doors to enter the school, where they walk down the halls before starting to shoot again.
The image that has been circulating online is a screengrab from 1:04 in the video.
The second image comes from the camera worn by officer Rex Engelbert, one of the police officers who arrived on the scene shortly after the massacre began. The police released this video on Tuesday, March 28, 2023.
This video was then picked by various media outlets, appearing, for example, in this article by the American media outlet NBC News.
The footage shows police entering the school and going into several different classrooms on the ground floor. They encounter the assailant on the next level and shoot them. The distressing footage shows the assailant’s body on the ground.
The image that has been circulating in these posts appears at 0:49.
Vans and not Pumas
But do these two videos really show two different shoes?
However, if you look closely at the shoes in the first image, there are actually some clues that they aren’t Pumas at all. On the shoes worn by the assailant, the laces stop around where the white mark stops. However, on shoes made by Puma, the laces go farther.
Moreover, if you watch more of the surveillance video, then you’ll see these shoes from different angles. In these different shots, you can see a logo on the back of the shoe that appears on Vans sneakers. The Puma shoes, on the other hand, don't have a logo in that place.
There’s a moment in the footage where the hem of the pants worn by the assailant lifts and you can see the entire back of the shoe. At that moment, you can see that the shoes have the Vans logo and not the Puma logo.
The image, compressed
However, a question remains. How come the yellow and red flames on the Vans shoes don’t appear in the footage captured by the school’s security camera?
Our team spoke to Pierre Billet, who is the technical director of a Parisian company specialising in special effects, called Compagnie Générale des Effets Visuels (CGEV). He said that there are a few reasons why they might not be visible.
Security cameras are limited in terms of both the color and the movement that they can capture. If there is too much light, then you just get white.
It’s also possible that the footage has been compressed multiple times, both while it was being recorded and then when it has been picked up and rebroadcast. When you compress footage, making the file less heavy, one of the first ways that space is made is by losing color precision.
Moreover, the surveillance camera has low definition to begin with, meaning that details could easily be lost.
Finally, the security camera footage was recorded using artificial light while the police camera ends in daylight, so the balance is different.
Millet also pointed out that there is a moment in the police footage where the shoe actually appears black and white before you can see the colour again. This moment shows how the same shoe could look different depending on the luminosity and exposure of the footage.