Following a tragic Thursday morning Iowa shooting at Perry High School in the town of Perry, where one child was killed, multiple people were seriously injured, and the suspected shooter died of a presumed self-inflicted wound, right-wing extremists and influencers have centered on the shooter’s speculated LGBTQ+ identity based on a Pride flag emoji on a since- disabled TikTok profile.
Late Thursday afternoon, Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, provided updates on the alleged shooter and the situation.
The Perry Police Department responded to the active shooter event, and upon arrival, they found students and faculty either sheltering in place or fleeing the school, Mortvedt reported. Inside, multiple victims with gunshot wounds were discovered. The shooter, identified as 17-year-old Dylan Butler, a student at Perry High School, was found with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Mortvedt mentioned that Butler was armed with a shotgun and a handgun and had made several social media posts around the time of the shooting.
Mortvedt confirmed that there were six victims in the shooting: one deceased sixth-grade student from Perry Middle School and five others injured, including four students and a school administrator.
While law enforcement has not commented about the alleged shooter’s gender identity or sexual orientation, social media users focused on the appearance of a Pride flag on an account allegedly linked to the shooter, and it led to a narrative amplified by right-wing influencers online. That account is no longer available, but screen grabs of its content have circulated widely on social media.
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Chaya Raichik, known for running the anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok social media accounts, began posting hours before the shooter was identified, alleging him to be gender fluid, based upon a hashtag allegedly included in the person’s social media footprint. She later posted a meme inaccurately linking several mass shooters to the LGBTQ+ community. Elon Musk amplified this idea on the platform X, formerly Twitter.
The meme referenced several shootings: In Tennessee, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who police said identified as transgender, was responsible for a 2023 school shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville; in Colorado, Anderson Lee Aldrich, behind the 2022 mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, was asserted by their lawyers to be nonbinary. However, this claim has been met with skepticism due to Aldrich’s known anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. In Denver, Alec McKinney, a transgender teenager, was involved in a 2019 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, and in 2018, in Maryland, Snochia Moseley, identified as transgender, carried out a shooting at an Aberdeen Rite Aid distribution center.
Later, Raichik posted from her Libs of TikTok account, “This is the trans genderfluid te*ror*st who shot up a school in Iowa today. Trans extremists are a serious threat. The media will bury this.”
Historically, most mass shooters have not been trans or nonbinary people.
Reuters Fact Check clarifies that the cases pointed out by Raichik represent a tiny fraction of mass shootings. Cisgender men carry out the majority of such incidents. The Violence Project and the Gun Violence Archive confirm that instances involving transgender or nonbinary shooters are exceedingly rare. The Gun Violence Archive recorded over 4,400 mass shootings in the last decade, with known transgender suspects in fewer than 10 cases, translating to about 0.11 percent of all shootings. Additionally, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center reported that nearly all attackers in mass attacks they studied were male, with only a small fraction being transgender.
While there have been isolated incidents involving transgender or nonbinary people in mass shootings, these are not representative of the broader trend. The predominant demographic of mass shooters remains cisgender men, debunking the narrative propagated by certain right-wing figures and influencers that seek to incorrectly associate mass shootings predominantly with the LGBTQ+ community.
Angela Ferell-Zaballa, executive director of Moms Demand Action, warned against accepting false narratives in the wake of gun violence in a statement to The Advocate.
“We are only days into 2024, and already students are being shot in school,” Ferell-Zaballa said, noting that the gun violence epidemic in America exists because of lax gun laws and lawmaker inaction.
“Extremists often try to muddy the waters by blaming our gun violence crisis on mental health or gender identity, when often people with these lived realities are most likely to be victims of gun violence, rather than perpetrators of it,” she continued. “In the case of the shooting today in Iowa or the countless other acts of gun violence every single day, the common denominator is always the gun and the weak laws that allow these tragedies to happen. This senseless violence needs to stop because sending your children to school shouldn’t be a death sentence.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, also cautioned against accepting these conspiracy theories.
“This news is a tragedy, for those directly harmed, their families, their fellow students and educators, and the broader community. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in America today, and it is unequivocally wrong, no matter the shooter or their motive,” Ellis said in a statement to The Advocate. “Media outlets that speculate on the shooter’s identity or their support of LGBTQ rights instead of focusing on those impacted are contributing to a false and sweeping narrative about vulnerable communities. We all deserve to feel safe when going about our lives, and we need to protect our children most of all. Media outlets and leaders have an obligation to humanize the victims and survivors during this painful time, not to sensationalize the harms of gun violence or bring fame to the shooter.”
Humans Rights Campaign national press secretary Brandon Wolf, who survived the horrific 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando also did not hold back in his criticism of Raichik.
“Chaya Raichik, in her never-ending quest for clicks, is using a horrific shooting to try and drum up anti-LGBTQ+ hysteria for her cause. In truth, LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, a reality made worse by those like her, who demonize the community at every turn and peddle dangerous, bogus narratives in exchange for influence. More shameless cruelty from someone whose brand is built on it,” Wolf said.
This story is developing.