A Canadian man who survived getting shot in the head during the massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival has been bombarded with death threats from online conspiracy theorists.
Braden Matejka barely escaped the Route 91 Harvest festival with his life after Stephen Paddock fired a barrage of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino down on the outdoor concert below. The 64-year-old gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more, Matejka among them.
“You are a lying piece of s--- and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” one person wrote to Matejka on Facebook in the days after the worst shooting in modern U.S. history.
Another wrote: “Your soul is disgusting and dark! You will Pay for the consequences.”
Matejka’s family told the Guardian people have also taken to making memes with his photos and pairing them with crude captions. The shooting survivor was forced to shut down his social media accounts, but his loved ones are still being targeted by those who believe the deadly incident was a hoax.
“There are all these families dealing with likely the most horrific thing they’ll ever experience, and they are also met with hate and anger and are being attacked online about being part of some conspiracy,” his brother, Taylor Matejka, told the Guardian.
“It’s madness I can’t imagine the thought process of these people. Do they know that we are actual people?”
Conspiracy theorists, many of whom believe the government staged the Oct. 1 shooting or that it did not happen at all, have targeted survivors, dubbing them “crisis actors,” hired to pose as victims.
Taylor said he tried responding to some of the posts, but that none of their authors were interested in hearing reason.
“A really sad part of this is that a lot of people think they’re fighting the good fight and exposing truth,” he said.
Matejka traveled to the festival from his native Canada with girlfriend Amanda Homulos to celebrate his 30th birthday.
When the gunfire broke out, Matejka was knocked to the ground after a bullet struck him the head. Homulos, who was not injured, was able to make it inside the car of another concertgoer, who drove them to the hospital.
His wound was not life-threatening, and the couple earlier this month recalled their harrowing escape in an on-camera interview with the Associated Press.
“I’m just so grateful that we’re still here, and I can’t express how sorry I am for the people that didn’t make it,” Homulos said through her tears.