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An Instagram Account That Threatened The California School Shooting Did Not Belong To The Gunman

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department told reporters they believed the account belonged to the 16-year-old shooter, but it was a hoax.

Last updated on November 15, 2019, at 8:06 p.m. ET

Posted on November 14, 2019, at 10:15 p.m. ET


LOS ANGELES — An Instagram account that appeared to threaten Thursday's shooting at a California high school, then declared it was all a joke, did not belong to the gunman, an Instagram spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

The account @nibba_leader on Thursday featured a bio that read, "Saugus have fun at school tomorrow." It appeared to be a warning about the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, which left two students dead and three others wounded. It wasn't clear if the bio had been written before or after the shooting, but it spread widely and was reported by local media to be that of the shooter.

But an Instagram spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Thursday evening that the account did not belong to the shooter, identified as 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow.

"We disabled this account for violating our policies," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "We can confirm it did not belong to the shooter."

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

After opening fire on his classmates, the shooter shot himself in the head, authorities said. He died Friday afternoon while being treated at the hospital.

So when @nibba_leader began updating the Instagram account hours after the shooting, people began to believe that it was all a troll. The account posted a photo of a clown, captioning it, "Face reveal for the 500+ comments I got." Its bio was changed to, "THE #1 worst meme account on Instagram."


But even after the new posts, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators said at a news conference that they believed the original threat was posted by the gunman.

"I also want to acknowledge, and I believe most of you have reported on this, a posting on the bio of what we believe to be the subject’s Instagram account," LASD Capt. Kent Wegener told reporters Thursday afternoon.


Wegener shared the threatening message, adding, "I can confirm that was posted on his account, and I can also confirm that it has been changed since this incident, which means there is someone else who has access to this account."

Wegener said it was possible that the shooter had given the password to a friend or that it had been hacked.

The account regularly shared memes, including one that joked about the terrorist attack at mosques in New Zealand.

In a screenshot of an Instagram group chat, titled MESSED UP MEME CHAT, @nibba_leader says they pretended to be the shooter to "get clout."

"It's terrible what I'm doing," a message in the screenshot said. "But people are gullible."

Wegener told BuzzFeed News on Thursday night that investigators were working to obtain a search warrant to gather information about the owner of the Instagram account.

"There is a high probability that the subject has nothing to do with this account, but we will not know definitively until we get the search warrant return," he said. "As always, things become more clear as the investigation develops."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.