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Feb. 29, 2024 |  By: Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Man wrongly accused in KC shooting weighs defamation suit, demands Missouri senators apologize

freedom caucus members

By Rudi Keller - Missouri Independent

Right-wing politicians who won’t apologize for labeling Denton Loudermill as the shooter responsible for a death and almost two dozen injuries at the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory parade will have to answer for their falsehoods, he and his legal advocate told The Independent.

And if Loudermill needs it, Bootheel businessman and lifelong Democrat Barry Aycock says he’s ready to foot the bill for the lawyers.

Loudermill, an Olathe, Kansas, native, father of three and a lifelong Chiefs fan, said he lives in fear when he’s at home and draws stares when he ventures out.

“Sometimes I’m afraid to go outside of my house,” Loudermill said, “or think that somebody who’s going to come into my house because some people probably don’t even see that I was innocent.” . 

The argument that ended with gunfire left Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a local radio personality, dead and nearly two dozen others wounded. 

In the chaos, Loudermill was grabbed by police and handcuffed. Police told him he was detained because he was taking too long to clear the area of the shooting, Loudermill said.

He was released soon afterwards and has not been charged with any offense.

While he was detained, he was photographed seated on a curb. An account on X, formally known as Twitter, with the name Deep Truth Intel used the photo and labeled Loudermill an “illegal immigrant” under arrest as the shooter.

From there, the misinformation spread quickly. It showed up in posts from the Missouri Freedom Caucus, the group of six Republican state senators who have disrupted floor action as they battle with the Senate’s GOP leadership. Three of those senators also spread the incorrect information on social media, including the Deep Truth Intel post or a similar post with Loudermill’s photo.

At a Freedom Caucus news conference last week, state Sen. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville said he and the others who shared the false information had nothing to apologize for.

“There’s nothing that I see even worth that,” Brattin said when asked if he planned to apologize. “We’ve done nothing and, you know, I have no comment.”

The total refusal to apologize, or acknowledge any wrongdoing, infuriated Loudermill and the attorney who has been working with him to clear his name. 

Both agree a defamation lawsuit may be the only recourse, and those conversations are already taking place.

“We’ve already been contacted by some huge, huge hitters in the legal field,” said LaRonna Lassiter Saunders, an attorney working as Loudermill’s legal advocate.

The potential defendants include anyone who used social media to spread or amplify the posts making false accusations, Lassiter Saunders said.

“Every time you share this misinformation, legally, that’s another account that we could have for defamation,” she said.

The speed at which the smear to Loudermill’s reputation spread appalled him, Aycock said in an interview with The Independent. Aycock, of Parma, founded a successful farm consulting firm called AgXplore that he sold in 2018, lists himself on his Linked-In bio as semi-retired. Over the years, he’s flirted with running for political office as a Democrat but has never entered a campaign. 

“The Freedom Caucus is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to Missourians,” Aycock said. “They’re just plumb nuts. And they’ve really caused this guy a lot of trouble by retweeting all that false information. And I just don’t like seeing anybody done like that.”

Anti-immigration politicians were quick to share the false posts, Aycock said, because it fit the narrative that the U.S. is being overrun.

“They’re more worried about making a political statement and making the president of the United States look bad instead of being worried about this ‘illegal alien shooter’ in Kansas City,” Aycock said.

Apologies would help mitigate the damage done to his reputation, Lassiter Saunders said.

“Some counsel may say don’t apologize, because you’re admitting liability, but I disagree,” she said. “You can say I’m sorry this happened. At that point we can say it’s understandable, but when you just take a stance and are just going to disregard any parts you had in it, now that’s another level.”

State Sen. Denny Hoskins, one of the Freedom Caucus members who reposted the Deep Truth Intel post, declined to apologize when asked about the situation Wednesday.

“I’m not going to comment on the Denton Loudermill tweets and that situation,” Hoskins said.

What they said

The post from the Deep Truth Intel incorrectly identified Loudermill with a name associated with misinformation posted after other shootings, including an October mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, that left 18 dead.

Soon after the initial social media post, the Missouri Freedom Caucus and three state Senators who are members posted their own versions.

These are 3 people arrested at the parade…at least one of those arrested is an illegal immigrant. CLOSE OUR BORDERS!” the Missouri Freedom Caucus posted on X. 

The post has since been deleted.

“Fact – President Biden’s open border policies & cities who promote themselves as Sanctuary Cities like #Kansas City invite illegal violent immigrants into the U.S.,” Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican, posted, along with a screenshot of the Deep Truth Intel post.

That post has also been deleted, but a Feb. 14 post without a photo from Hoskins repeats “information I’ve seen” that “at least one of the alleged shooters is an illegal immigrant and all 3 arrested are repeat violent offenders.”

Hoskins hedged it with “IF THIS IS ACCURATE” and repetition of conservative rhetoric to stop immigration and restrain cities that help immigrants, blaming crime on “catch and release policies of liberal cities.” 

In an interview, Hoskins said the second post sums up his views that undocumented immigrants are dangerous.

“I’m very passionate about making sure that illegal immigrants are not here in the state, especially those that are violent criminals, and we need to make sure that we lock up repeat, violent offenders,” Hoskins said.

Brattin’s first post linking Loudermill to the shooting remains online, stating “#POTUS CLOSE THE BORDER.” When originally posted, those words were a response to the deleted Deep Truth Intel post.

The least certain post about the immigration and arrest status of Loudermill from Missouri Freedom Caucus members was from Sen. Nick Schroer, a Republican from Defiance.

Schroer’s post included a link to one from U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee stating, over Loudermill’s photo, that “One of the Kansas City Chiefs victory parade shooters has been identified as an illegal Alien.”

Burchett has since deleted that post.

“Can we get any confirmation or denial of this from local officials or law enforcement?” Schroer wrote on X. “I’ve been sent videos or stills showing at least 6 different people arrested from yesterday but officially told only 3 still in custody. The people deserve answers.”

Burchett’s original post has been deleted, but it is still visible as a screenshot in a Feb. 19 post by the congressman.

“It has come to my attention that in one of my previous posts, one of the shooters was identified as an illegal alien,” Burchett posted. “This was based on multiple, incorrect news reports stating that. I have removed the post.”

The Missouri Freedom Caucus also sought to retrace its steps, linking to a KMBC post about Loudermill’s effort to clear his name.

“Denton is an Olathe native, a father of three & a proud @Chiefs fan,” the post states. “He’s not a mass shooter. Images of him being detained for being intoxicated & not moving away from the crime scene at the Chiefs rally have spread online. He just wants to clear his name.”

What’s next

GoFundMe effort on Loudermill’s behalf has raised $1,500 of its $15,000 goal and the money is being used to support efforts to scrub his image and inaccurate information from the internet, Lassiter Saunders said.

That’s a full day’s work every day,” she said.

At the same time, Lassiter Saunders is working to assemble a legal team if Loudermill wants to redeem his reputation in court. While she has already been contacted by some lawyers experienced in defamation cases, Lassiter Saunders said she is still working through potential representation.

“If there’s a firm with significant defamation experience, we’re definitely open to speaking with them as well,” she said.

The mitigating statements, both from Burchett and the Freedom Caucus, miss the mark as apologies, she said. Burchett’s new post, by resharing his original post and failing to state that Loudermill was not the shooter, is almost as bad as the original, she said. 

And the Freedom Caucus post, which does not acknowledge that it helped in the online spread of false images, isn’t an apology, Lassiter Saunders said.

“When you get representatives who are supposed to represent the American people, and they’re allowing one of their own citizens to be smeared, they have taken part in that smearing and won’t even say two simple words, that’s a sad day,” she said.

The most important thing at this point, Loudermill said, is an apology and acknowledgement that he had nothing to do with the shootings. 

And he wants accountability.

“Everybody that said everything and posted everything should be held accountable,” Loudermill said.

The more the false information spread, Lassiter Saunders said, the harder it will be for Loudermill.

“This man’s life is potentially ruined because five years from now someone can Google KC parade shooter, and his picture could still pop up,” she said. “And so we just need people to first of all, screenshot and send us information if they’re still being posted.

Part of the social media effort is to find out who was responsible for the initial posts, where the photo started and who has reposted the falsehoods, Lassiter Saunders said.

“Every time you share this misinformation, legally, that’s another account that we could have for defamation,” she said.

Despite his own troubles, Loudermill said he’s heartbroken over the death of Lopez-Galvan and the injuries to others including children caught in the crossfire.

“I just want to give my condolences to the families and especially to the family of the young lady who died,” Loudermill said. “I just want to give my condolences to everybody.”