Braden Matejka endured the worst experience of his life when he took a bullet to the back of the head in Las Vegas, amid the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Now, the 30-year-old Lake Country resident has been chased off social media by conspiracy theorists who have called him a faker and even issued death threats.
Coverage of the Las Vegas shooting on Globalnews.ca:
Matejka was celebrating his 30th birthday at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 people.
Only luck and the quick actions of strangers saved his life.
Global News was there, in hospital, meeting Matejka as he recovered.
Since the shooting, he’s been faced with online comments from people who call him a “liar” and a “scumbag govt actor.”
One commenter said, “I hope someone comes after you.”
Survivors like Matejka have been targeted by such critics ever since the shooting happened. Victims have been accused of lying about their injuries and partaking in a hoax.
“They have the audacity to come after the victims of this shooting,” Taylor Matejka, Braden’s brother, told Global News.
“These people have had to contend with surviving a mass shooting, and that’s the bottom line.”
The claims are baseless, but that hasn’t stopped them.
One of said critics is Kyle Macdonald, a Vancouver online personality.
He confirmed to Global News that he authored a tweet in which he accused victim Sheldon Mack, the son of former B.C. news anchor Hudson Mack, of being a “successful crisis” actor.
“Very few people yet realize the whole thing was just a hoax,” he tweeted. “You guys did it!”
Speaking to Global News, Macdonald said that if his comments upset Mack, “that’s too bad. Because crying wolf is worse.”
Peter Chow-White, the director of SFU’s School of Communication, said he finds it difficult to believe that anyone thinks the Las Vegas shooting was a hoax.
“You’ve got people who are making up facts, thinking that they’re doing the job of journalists but aren’t really trained journalists at all,” he said.
The facts that these critics promote aren’t real.
But the harassment of shooting victims is yet one more reality they’re forced to bear as they recover.
- Video report by Paul Johnson; with files from Sean Boynton