Super Bowl parade shooting: The real story behind fake criminal ‘Sahil Omar’

Denton Loudermill had nothing to do with the shooting - but he received death threats when he was briefly detained and falsely identified online as 'Sahil Omar'
Image caption,Denton Loudermill had nothing to do with the shooting – but he received death threats when he was briefly detained and falsely identified online as ‘Sahil Omar’

By Mike Wendling

BBC News

In the hours after the Kansas City Super Bowl parade shooting, highly influential right-wing accounts and Republican lawmakers falsely identified one of the shooters as “Sahil Omar”.

The attacker was reported to be an illegal immigrant in his 40s.

It was the latest fake rumour mentioning the “Sahil Omar” name, which has been linked to a number of other recent events: an explosion at a border crossing in Niagara Falls, shootings in Las Vegas and Prague, a sexual assault on the London Underground, a gas explosion in Texas and others.

But not only was nobody named “Sahil Omar” involved in any of these incidents – there’s no evidence he exists at all.

Although the motive of the person who started the rumours is unclear, online discussions have been fuelled by activists and politicians who take a hard line against immigration.

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And the origin of the fake has become apparent in the week since the shooting in Kansas City killed one and injured more than 20 others.

How it started

The “Sahil Omar” rumour was started by an account on X which was set up in 2022, using a photo of LeBron James as its profile picture. It currently has fewer than 1,000 followers.

For a while, the person behind the account mostly tweeted about basketball – particularly the Los Angeles Lakers – and fast food.

But in October 2023 – soon after the Lewistown, Maine, mass shooting that killed 18 people – this account was the first to mention that a migrant named “Sahil Omar” was behind the attack.

Tweet: "BREAKING: The Gunman behind the Lewiston, Maine Mass shooting has been identified as 42 Year-old migrant Sahil Omar".

The account’s allegation was complete fiction. Law enforcement later identified the attacker as local resident Robert Card, who was found dead.

But that did not dissuade the person behind the account from attempting to connect “Sahil Omar” and his made-up biographical details with several other news events over the coming months.

Few of those efforts got much traction. But then came the Kansas City parade – and suddenly “Sahil Omar” went viral.

As details were slow to come out in the chaos following the shooting, the claims that an illegal immigrant was behind the violence took off. Buoyed by right-wing accounts with large followings, X’s metrics show that millions saw the “Sahil Omar” allegation.

Some of the posts included a photo of a man wearing a red hoodie being led away by police. But those posts were misleading as well.

While the man was the subject of intense speculation in the days after the shooting, he was later identified as Denton Loudermill from the nearby town of Olathe, Kansas.

Mr Loudermill was intoxicated at the parade and briefly detained but released without being charged. He had nothing to do with the shooting, and yet has faced death threats since his picture circulated widely.

LaRonna Lassiter Saunders, Mr Loudermill’s attorney, said he was “exploring his legal options” and considering action against those who spread the false rumours.

Immigration debate

Many of the viral posts about “Sahil Omar” took on a political nature – calling for tougher action at the US southern border and deportation of immigrants.

Those included posts by two Missouri state senators, Denny Hoskins and Rick Brattin, and a US congressman from Tennessee, Tim Burchett.

Mr Burchett later deleted his tweet and said it was “based on multiple, incorrect news reports” – a message that Mr Hoskins retweeted. Mr Brattin’s tweet, which repeated the rumour and called on President Biden to “CLOSE THE BORDER”, was still live as of Wednesday.

The BBC contacted the lawmakers for comment.

Tim Burchett
Image caption,Tim Burchett later deleted his post repeating the false claim

Who’s behind it all?

The person behind the account which began the “Sahil Omar” rumours said they live in Southern California.

But in a series of direct messages on X between the account holder and BBC, they refused to share any information about the ruse or why they frequently made the false claim. Instead, the individual continued to insist that “Sahil Omar” was involved in all sorts of crimes.

The prank is similar to an internet “joke” that routinely went viral following mass shootings and terrorist attacks – blaming killings on a fringe comedian named Sam Hyde.

But whereas Mr Hyde is an actual person – one who is at least aware of the joke, if not in on it himself – there’s no evidence that “Sahil Omar” is real.

Instead, it is a false claim made by an anonymous person that has misled the American public and chummed the waters in the fractious US immigration debate.https://kebayangkali.com/

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