Van Jones and Ann Coulter speak with Bill Maher on his HBO show (Real Time with Bill Maher/HBO).

On Tuesday, Jackson County authorities charged two suspects with murder for the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Parade that left one dead and 22 with gunshot wounds.

Prosecutors identified the perpetrators as Dominic M. Miller and Lyndell Mays, two Missourians aged 18 and 23, respectively.

With six days between the shooting and the prosecutor’s announcement, speculation swirled on who was to blame for the shooting, and in the process, the American public and media were misled to have “the wrong guy” for the crime.

Initial Media Reports Accused Two Juveniles

On February 16, the Jackson County Family Court said two “juveniles” had been charged in connection to the parade shooting. The juveniles were facing charges related to gun possession and resisting arrest, and more charges were “expected in the future,” according to Kansas City’s local NBC affiliate, KSHB 41

The shooting was allegedly the result of a personal dispute and the court was withholding the suspects’ identities because of their age, KSHB reported.

Media across the spectrum reported the news with the same key facts. From ABC News (Lean Left bias) to New York Post (Lean Right bias), the story was widely covered.

The protection of the juveniles’ identities became a key talking point for conservatives in particular.

Prominent Conservative Commentary Based Upon the Initial Reports

Based on the original reports, Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review (Right bias) criticized the media at large. Cooke referenced Missouri’s gun laws which make it illegal for juveniles to possess firearms, or dealers to “recklessly” sell to them. He also argued that it is not a traditional “mass shooting” as it ostensibly stemmed from an argument “between two illegally armed minors.” 

Cooke’s main gripe was that he felt the media’s coverage functioned more as a political cudgel than productive dialogue toward solving America’s mass shooting problem:

“Since Wednesday evening, I have read a hundred pieces about firearms — albeit not one featuring a single constructive suggestion — and read nothing whatsoever about parenting, juvenile delinquency, criminal-justice reform, or anything else. I have no interest in doing what I am criticizing here and jumping stupidly to my own conclusions, which is why I haven’t written anything blaming anyone other than the perpetrators for what happened. But others have, and I find it absolutely fascinating how one-tracked they are in their choice of villains.”

Additionally, Ann Coulter (Right bias), speaking with liberal commentator Bill Maher on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, said “If it were a white man shooting, we’d know [the shooter’s identity],” in a clip of the show that has since been widely viewed online.

Although the episode was released on February 16, the same day the news about the juveniles broke, from the clip widely circulated online it remains unclear if Coulter or Maher were aware of this key development.

(Getty Images via BBC)

Reports Emerge That The Perpetrators Were Adults

When Kansas City authorities announced on February 20 that two adults were being charged with murder for the shooting, it was widely covered by media across the spectrum.

"These are adults," said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. "There are two juveniles that has [sic] been reported already pretty broadly by the news media. Those are being handled by a different office at this point in time."

Implying that the two juveniles were in fact involved, however, she added, "We seek to hold every shooter accountable for their actions on that day — every single one. So while we're not there yet on every single individual, we're going to get there."

Court documents say the shooting was the result of a verbal argument between shooter Lyndell Mays and a group of people authorities believe Mays had no prior history with.

Mays reportedly told police one person said “I am going to get you,” and he heard, “I am going to kill you.” Of his own behavior, he added, “Stupid, man. Just pulled a gun out and started shooting. I shouldn’t have done that. Just being stupid.”

As for Miller, who officials believe fired the bullet that left one dead, he said he fired his weapon after someone pointed their handgun at him.

How Kansas City Authorities’ Staggered Reporting Confused the Media

Media across the spectrum agree that mass shootings are one of the nation’s biggest domestic problems, but the definition of a “mass shooting” remains in dispute; dialogue around gun control, underlying causes, and the media’s coverage of shootings also remain contested topics.

Whether media outlets continue to define the shooting as a “mass shooting” or not, Mays’ statements suggest the shooting was not premeditated, which is often the case with mass shootings widely covered by mainstream media like the 2022 Buffalo supermarket shooting, or the 2023 Lunar New Year shooting in California.

While Kansas City authorities maintain that all four individuals charged are connected to the shooting, the initial report regarding the two juveniles caused confusion and created room for opinionated commentary based upon a pretext that later proved to be false. It’s possible authorities concealed the identities of the juveniles because they knew they were going to be announcing more suspects who would be facing the most serious charge of murder at a later date.

As a result, during the six days between the shooting and the release of the suspected murderers, readers and commentators alike were led to jump to conclusions before the rest of the facts came out.

Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This blog was reviewed and edited by Henry A. Brechter, Editor-in-chief (Center bias), Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias), Joseph Ratliff, Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Malayna Bizier, Content Intern (Right bias).