The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 15, 2012

Botched ID of shooter goes viral, to brother's horror

So much bad information spread so quickly after Friday's school massacre that few at first noticed the 10-word shout of truth that Facebook delivered from a man enduring a day of almost unimaginable horror: "IT WASN'T ME I WAS AT WORK IT WASN'T ME."

There is no surprise left in chronicling how the Internet infuses our lives, shapes our reality, even defines our truths. But perhaps never before had a man accused of mass murder — images of his Facebook page already were racing through cyberspace and flashing on television screens — so quickly begun the arduous process of setting the record straight.

That likely was small comfort to Ryan Lanza, 24, who on the same day would learn that his brother, Adam, 20, had allegedly gunned down their mother at home and more than two dozen other people at a Connecticut elementary school before killing himself. It was not clear what caused the initial confusion about which Lanza was the shooter.

Yet it was hard not to marvel at the drama as it exploded virtually virtually across computer screens worldwide.

Ryan Lanza's Facebook page bore a contemplative profile picture, with his head tilted up and chin protruding, yet his eyes were covered by dark sunglasses. Two minutes after first professing his innocence on the page, by accessing his account from a mobile phone, he gave an update: "I'm on the bus home now it wasn't me."

A friend named Jessica O'Brien replied sweetly: "Do you need anything ready for when you get home? Can I set anything out for you to grab and go? Anything else I can do."

At the end was a yellow emoticon. It was frowning.

It was not possible to verify that the screen grab of Lanza's Facebook page was authentic, but public records show that O'Brien and one of the other friends who commented on Lanza's page shared an address with him in Hoboken, N.J.

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