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Police warn of social media hoaxes in US shooting

Published on Dec 17, 2012 7:00 AM
A man pauses in front of a U.S. flag bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in the town center of Sandy Hook Village in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.-- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEWTOWN, Connecticut (AFP) - Authorities investigating the deadly US school shooting warned on Sunday of misinformation circulating on social media about the massacre.

Those spreading such fake details could be subject to arrest, Lieutenant Paul Vance of Connecticut State Police told reporters in the wake of Friday's attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people - including 20 children between the ages of six and seven.

The rampage in the peaceful rural community north-east of New York City rattled the country and sparked a frantic search for answers.

"All information relative to this case is coming from these microphones and any information coming from other sources cannot be confirmed and, in many cases, it has been found as inaccurate," Lt Vance said.

"There have been indications that there have been quotes by people who are posing as the shooter," he added. "Anyone perpetrating that information, could, in fact, be subject to arrest and be prosecuted federally." Asked if anyone has been identified or questioned, Lt Vance said: "They're working on that right now."

Reporting about the case has been marred by confusion and false leads.

Shortly after the story first broke, news reports surfaced referencing a Facebook page attributed to Ryan Lanza, the name initially believed to be that of the gunman, who was later identified as Adam Lanza.

It had first been floated after police found an ID bearing that name on the gunman's body. The ID turned out to belong to the 20-year-old's brother.

US media said reporters swarmed the home of another Ryan Lanza in New Jersey. A wrong Ryan Lanza also picked up a slew of followers on Twitter.

Adam Lanza, who also murdered his mother before heading to the school, killed himself following the slayings.