David Briscoe’s description of the gruesome massacre at a Texas high school on May 18 last year was incredibly graphic and detailed.
Briscoe told reporters from a number of national media outlets — include Time, CNN and The Wall Street Journal — that he was a substitute English teacher at Santa Fe High School when 10 people were killed.
He heard gunshots, screaming and a fire alarm, he said. It sounded like somebody had been shot nearby and was groaning. So he did what he thought was the best thing to do.
“I barricaded the door with desks and tables and shut the lights,” he told CNN.
“Honestly, it felt like hours before we got out of the school, but one of my students said it was 30 to 45 minutes,” he said.
Time magazine ran a story quoting the substitute teacher, too.
“Briscoe’s reality — though, he says, it still feels like a dream — is a nightmare for any teacher,” the author wrote.
It was a gripping account of a devastating event perpetrated by 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who has been charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Journalist Alex Samuels spoke to him for 31 minutes. He told her the things he remembered from being inside the school.
“Just knowing that there’s blood on the walls where you walk at … I don’t think I could go back.”
He told Samuels he “became isolated and depressed and began drinking heavily”, that “he never tried to contact any of the other survivors” and once “contemplated suicide”.
She discovered that nobody named David Briscoe was employed by the local school district.
She was told by local police they had “no record” of a person by that name working at the school and that there were no English classes on the side of the school Briscoe claimed he was working when the shooting began.
Samuels looked through public records that showed no David Briscoe lived in Texas at the time.
The Twitter account — @daviddbriscoe — that was used to contact the Tribune in April has since been removed and all four publications that quoted the mystery man have since changed their stories.
Before he deleted the Twitter account, Briscoe was attacked for using the tragedy for his own personal benefit.
Leigh Wall, the Superintendent for the Santa Fe Independent School District, told the Tribuneshe was “extremely disappointed that an individual that has never been a part of our school community would represent themselves as a survivor of the mass violence tragedy that our community endured.
“This situation illustrates how easily misinformation can be created and circulated, especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited due to the still ongoing investigation.”
It’s not the first time a person has inserted themselves into a traumatic event.
Tania Head claimed she was inside World Trade Centre’s south tower when a plane was deliberately flown into it on September 11, 2001.
According to The New York Times, she told reporters she was “crawling through the chaos and carnage on the 78th floor that morning”. She said she encountered a man whose dying wish was to have his inscribed wedding band returned to his widow.
She told her story to college students and had it posted online as part of the official World Trade Center Survivors’ Network.
But a spokeswoman for the company she claimed to work for said she they never employed her.