Posts Make Baseless Claim About Deadly Iowa School Shooting

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Quick Take

A sixth-grade student was killed, five people were injured and the 17-year-old gunman took his own life during a school shooting in Perry, Iowa, on Jan. 4. Social media posts baselessly labeled the incident a “false flag” event timed to draw attention away from the release of documents related to sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s associates.

Full Story

On the first day back to school from the winter break, a teenage gunman killed a sixth-grader and injured four other students and the principal at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa, on Jan. 4. Officials identified the shooter as Dylan Butler, 17, and said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities said Butler, a student at the school, had been armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small caliber handgun, and a “rudimentary” improvised explosive was also found in the school, the New York Times reported. Officials said they believe Butler acted alone. CNN reported that authorities also believe he posted a TikTok video showing himself in a school bathroom shortly before the shooting.

Despite the details reported about the incident, posts on social media tried to cast doubt on the shooting, referring to it as a “false flag” meant to distract the public from the release of documents identifying associates of sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide while jailed in 2019.

“With the release of the Epstein Docs yesterday and the Iowa Caucus next week we conveniently have a False Flag mass shooting event at High School in Perry, Iowa. It’s all so obvious,” read a Jan. 4 Instagram post that received more than 1,300 likes.

“Not even 24 hours after the Epstein court document was released we have multiple victims who were shot at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa. Make no mistake this is a false flag to distract the media from discussing anything in relation to Jeffrey Epstein and his clients,” read another post.

A “false flag” refers to an action “designed to look like it was perpetrated by someone other than the person or group responsible for it,” according to We’ve written about other bogus claims of “false flags” related to the death of George Floyd and threats of Election Day violence.

There is no evidence for the conspiratorial claim in the social media posts that the deadly shooting in Perry, Iowa, involved or was planned by anyone other than the alleged teenage gunman.

In addition, the incident has not distracted the media from extensive coverage of the release of the documents related to Epstein.

Editor’s note: is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Caruso, David B. “Dozens more Jeffrey Epstein documents are now public. Here’s what we know so far.” Associated Press. 5 Jan 2024.

Fichera, Angelo. “Antifa ‘False Flag’ Flyer Is an Old Hoax.” 3 Nov 2020.

Goldstein, Matthew and Benjamin Weiser. “Unsealed Documents Shed Light on Epstein’s Misdeeds, and Little Else.” New York Times. 3 Jan 2024.

Hill, James, Aaron Katersky and Jared Kofksy. “New batch of Jeffrey Epstein court documents released.” ABC News. 4 Jan 2024. “False flag” definition. Accessed 5 Jan 2024.

Reyna-Rodriguez, Victoria. “What we know about the Perry High School shooting victims, suspect and community response.” Des Moines Register. Updated 4 Jan 2024.

Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Minneapolis Police License Plate Doesn’t Raise a ‘False Flag.’” 29 May 2020.

Tabachnick, Cara and Allison Elyse Gualtieri. “Jeffrey Epstein contact names revealed in unsealed documents. Here are key takeaways from the files.” CBS News. 5 Jan 2024.

Tumin, Remy, Victor Mather and Leah McBride Mensching. “Sixth Grader Killed and Five Others Injured in Iowa School Shooting.” New York Times. Updated 5 Jan 2024.

Wolfe, Elizabeth, Raja Razek and Holly Yan. “Iowa school shooter believed to have posted an ominous TikTok video before killing a 6th grader and wounding 5 other people.” CNN. Updated 5 Jan 2024.

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