An alleged gunman’s surrender to Philadelphia police put an end to a 7½-hour-long standoff that left six police officers shot and others injured — the most shot during one incident in recent Philadelphia history.
During the long and tense wait Wednesday, a disturbing question arose about the chaotic and unfolding scene: Was there a livestream of events on social media?
While there was widespread speculation about police reports that a suspect in the house was livestreaming on Facebook, by midday Thursday no such video had surfaced, and Facebook said it had no evidence of it.
A source at Facebook, which owns Instagram, said Thursday: “There was no evidence of a livestream from the shooter on Facebook or Instagram, and we continue to work with law enforcement.”
Snapchat, where the livestream was also rumored to have been posted, did not respond to a request for comment.
While it’s not entirely clear what prompted the livestream chatter, reports of the stream may have arisen from the suspect’s allegedly contacting his girlfriend on FaceTime. When asked whether the suspect was broadcasting on Instagram, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he “wasn’t aware of it firsthand.”
“I mean, I do know there was a point when we know he was FaceTiming his girlfriend, and that’s how we ended up with the information about her and largely about his newborn, which obviously we’re leveraging that to try to appeal to him and his sense of reasoning,” Ross said. “I had heard there was some type of streaming, but I’m not aware of it firsthand. I was asked that question late last night, but I just don’t have firsthand knowledge of it.”
As the reports emerged, social media lit up with requests to find the alleged livestream, drawing criticism from many users.
“So many people asking for the link,” one person said. “It’s not a movie." The writer said that people being shot "is not something that should be enjoyable to watch and it sucks that so many people think otherwise.”
Similar calls appeared on the controversial messaging board 4chan, known for anonymous postings of radical white supremacist views, urging people to find the shooter’s Facebook livestream and post it on the board.
“SOMEBODY ARCHIVE BEFORE IT’S TAKEN DOWN,” wrote one poster.
But multiple users on the message board said the shooter’s livestream link was private and couldn’t be shared, and 4chan administrators deleted comments and shut down threads related to searches for a link.
The internet searches and comments came as controversy swirls around the controversial message board 8chan, where the alleged gunman who killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, this month supposedly posted a racist manifesto aimed at immigrants. The Texas shooting has prompted calls for that website’s closure, including from its founder.
The hours-long shootout and subsequent standoff in Philadephia began around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when narcotics officers approached the house on the 3700 block of North 15th Street in Tioga to serve a warrant.
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By 9:30 p.m., two officers who were still in the building were rescued by a SWAT team. The suspect surrendered around midnight.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today," Ross said.