An official with the National Rifle Association corresponded with a prominent Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist to call into question the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, emails obtained by HuffPost show.
NRA officer Mark Richardson emailed Wolfgang Halbig, a noted harasser of parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims, to float a conspiracy theory about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed last year.
“Just like [Sandy Hook], there is so much more to this story,” Richardson said in an email dated Feb. 15, 2018 ― just one day after the Florida shooting. Twenty children and six adults were killed during the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. “[The Parkland shooter] was not alone.” The email was sent from his official NRA email address.
Richardson is a training instructor and program coordinator with the NRA. He has worked there since 2006, according to a social media post. In an emailed statement to HuffPost, he confirmed he had been in contact with Halbig and said he was asking a “legitimate question.”
“Since an individual who was prohibited from the school was aloud [sic] to pass through the front doors with a backpack containing a long gun, it is a legitimate question to ask if he had assistance concerning access to the school,” Richardson told HuffPost.
He added, “No one else seems to be interested enough to even ask the question?”
The email exchange between Richardson and Halbig emerged as part of a recent discovery process for an ongoing lawsuit between Infowars host Alex Jones and Sandy Hook parent Scarlett Lewis, who is suing Jones and his show for intentional infliction of emotional distress. For years, he has falsely called the victims of the tragedy “crisis actors,” emboldening dangerous conspiracy theorists to harass people who lost their children in the tragic shooting.
Jones is also being sued by nine other Sandy Hook parents in separate lawsuits.
In the email Richardson sent to Halbig, he raises a series of questions intended to poke holes in the official account of the Parkland shooting — a tactic common among conspiracy theorists. Richardson then quickly and falsely concludes there were others in on the shooting, writing, “He was not alone.” He has no direct knowledge of the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
You have included me with a lot of Information since the Sandy Hook Incident and I do appreciate it very much. Concerning what happened in Florida yesterday, I have been asking the question and no one else seems to be asking it. How is it that Cruz was able gain access to a secured facility while in possession of a rifle, multiple magazines, smoke grenades and a gas mask? To pull the fire alarm, he had to already be inside. Correct? When my Children were in school the only way into the school was through the front door and past the main office. We have been told that he was. Prohibited from entering the building With a backpack. No longer a student, why was he allowed in the building at all? Where was all the equipment, in his back pocket? Just like SH, there is so much more to this story. He was not alone. Just a few questions that have surfaced in the past 24 hours. Thank you for all the information And for what you do. STAY SAFE
The same day Richardson wrote Halbig to assert falsely that there was a second shooter, Infowars published a story titled “Video: Second Shooter Reported In Florida Massacre.” Jones is facing a separate defamation lawsuit for falsely identifying someone as the Parkland shooter.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) condemned Jones’ fearmongering conspiracy theories Tuesday on MSNBC, along with the tech companies that allow those dangerous theories to proliferate.
“There is no constitutional duty on an internet company to allow somebody to terrorize parents of mass tragedies like Alex Jones did for so long,” Murphy said.
The uncovered email is even more troubling, given the recipient: Halbig, an Infowars contributor, is on the front lines of spreading false statements about the victims of Sandy Hook. He has spammed open records requests to Newtown officials for documents related to the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45-60 gallons of blood,” The New York Times reported.
His discussions on Infowars have included the sickening theory that 6-year-old Avielle Richman didn’t die in the Sandy Hook shooting. In a 2018 email to Richardson, Halbig mentions the girl’s name in capital letters in the subject line.
Her father, Jeremy Richman, died Monday by suspected suicide. And in the past two weeks, two Parkland shooting survivors also died by suspected suicide.
Halbig is not alone in encouraging the harassment of Sandy Hook families. A legion of trolls inspired by Infowars and other outlets have made tangible death threats against many Sandy Hook parents. Lucy Richards of Florida was sentenced to five months in prison in 2017 after she sent Sandy Hook father Leonard Pozner a voicemail that warned, “You gonna die. Death is coming to you.” Pozner is suing Jones for defamation.
In his response to Richardson, Halbig gloats about how he can “no longer be called a FRAUD.”
Lewis is being represented in her lawsuit by the Texas law firm Farrar & Ball. Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of TruthOrFiction.com and a consultant for Lewis’ attorneys, found the email while combing through thousands of others released as part of the discovery process.
“I had just spent the past six hours reading thousands of deeply disturbing emails Mr. Halbig sent to government agencies, political groups, and media organizations soliciting support for his dangerous fixation on Sandy Hook,” Binkowski told HuffPost in a statement. “I was shocked when that support came from an NRA official in 2018.”
The revelation comes as the NRA finds itself floundering financially. In 2017 the organization reported a loss of $55 million in income as membership plummeted.
“Sandy Hook was a horrific tragedy and any suggestion that the unspeakable atrocities committed by an evil lunatic were faked as part of an elaborate hoax are insane,” the NRA said Thursday in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “The men and women of the National Rifle Association grieve for the innocent people who were killed, the families ripped apart, and the entire Sandy Hook community.”
The organization stopped short of saying what action, if any, they would take against Richardson.
Halbig, meanwhile, had apparently been vying for the NRA’s attention for some time. After his correspondence with Richardson, Halbig emailed two friends to discuss the success of his efforts.
“After 4 years of emailing the NRA I finally got a response in light of the Broward County School Shooting,” he wrote. But ever the conspiracist, Halbig questioned Richardson’s motives.
“Now why?” he ended the email.
This article has been updated with comment from the NRA.