Ten people, including a police officer, were killed on Monday afternoon when a man opened fire inside a King Soopers supermarket in the city of Boulder, Colorado, in what was the latest of several high-profile mass shootings in the state over the past 25 years.
A suspect, shirtless and covered in blood, was taken into custody by Boulder Police 30 minutes after the shooting began, as local officials paid tribute to the fatally shot officer and the nine other victims in the hours that followed.
However, followers of the QAnon conspiracy instead took to messaging platform Telegram on Monday evening to declare that the mass shooting and the media reports about it were faked, according to messages obtained by Newsweek.
“No question Boulder, Co incident today was a false flag. The only question is by which side?,” one Telegram user with more than 260,000 followers wrote on Monday.
“False flag means it’s fake. Nobody actually died. Was this false flag to try and take your guns or scare the s**t out of you?,” the popular user added.
Another user claimed: “Nobody died. I was there for an actual shooting. This was 100 per cent fake fake,” as an account with close to 60,000 followers added: “This Boulder situation reeks of false flag. Anons will pick this apart in a matter of hours if it is,” according to Newsweek.
Theories swirling around internet communities that an incident was staged often follows in the days immediately after a mass shooting, with the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 a high-profile example of such false claims.
Followers of the QAnon movement baselessly claim that former President Donald Trump is leading the fight against a deep-state cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles that is partly run by the Democratic Party.
The movement, which peddles false claims about vaccines including that Covid-19 treatments are linked to people being transgender, has been identified by the FBI as an extremist group and accounts dedicated to it have been banned by both Facebook and Twitter.
Although followers left the movement after Mr Trump’s loss in last year’s presidential election, large sections of the community still believe in the conspiracy and have been vocal on a number of topics over the last couple of months.
Several followers claimed last week that a Fox News interview with Mr Trump in which the former president advocated for the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines was faked.
While following the deadly mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, a few days ago, where eight people including six Asian-American women were killed, some supporters of QAnon again claimed that the incident did not actually occur.
QAnon, which has even been shown support by members of Congress, is run by a mysterious account that originated on 4chan named Q who posts cryptic messages that make reference to the vast conspiracy theory often using puzzles and clues.
The name appears to be a reference to the fact that the person claims to have “Q” clearance, a designation in the US Department of Energy.
Despite its following, none of the theories posited by the QAnon movement have come true, including claims earlier this month that Mr Trump would seize power back from President Joe Biden and be re-inaugurated as president on 4 March. Mr Biden remains the US president.
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