© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri Freedom Caucus members sued for defamation over parade shooting posts

Senator Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, speaks during a post-session press conference on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Jefferson City. Senate Republican leadership has clashed with members of the Missouri Freedom Caucus holding up business.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, speaks during a press conference last January in Jefferson City. Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, stands to his left. The pair, along with Sen. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles County, are being sued for defamation.

Three Missouri Republicans — including one running for statewide office — are being sued for defamation over social media posts incorrectly identifying a Kansas man as an undocumented immigrant and the shooter at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory celebration.

On Tuesday, Denton Loudermill of Olathe, Kansas, filed federal lawsuits against state Sens. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg and Nick Schroer of Defiance.

Loudermill last week filed a similar complaint against U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee.

The four lawsuits are almost identical in their allegations against, which involve the lawmakers using social media platforms to repost a photo of Loudermill in handcuffs shortly after the shooting.

“The publication of the false representation that plaintiff was an ‘illegal alien’ and a ‘shooter’ was not made in good faith nor was it made by defendant with any legitimate interest in making or duty to make such assertions,” the lawsuit against Brattin states.

Identical language is in all four lawsuits.

No hearings have been scheduled in any of the cases.

The Feb. 14 parade and rally at Union Station in Kansas City drew approximately 1 million people. The joy the city expressed over a second consecutive Super Bowl victory turned to fear as shots rang out as the crowd near Union Station began to disperse.

The violence, tied to a dispute among the partiers, led to the death of KKFI DJ Lisa Lopez-Galvan and left 22 others injured. Three men, none of whom is an immigrant, face state murder charges for their role in the shootings and three others face federal firearms charges for selling guns involved in the shootings.

Thousands gather for the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVIII parade on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Kansas City, MO.
Julie Denesha
Thousands gather for the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVIII parade on Feb. 14 in Kansas City.

Loudermill, who was born in Kansas, was detained briefly because he was too slow to leave the area of the shooting, he told The Independent in an interview last month. At the time, he said he was contemplating lawsuits against any public officials who posted false information about him and later refused to apologize.

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

Through representatives in their offices, Hoskins and Schroer declined to comment on the lawsuit. Hoskins is a Republican candidate for secretary of state.

Brattin was not available for comment when The Independent visited his Capitol office.

At a Feb. 22 news conference, Brattin 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 told reporters at the time. “We’ve done nothing and, you know, I have no comment.”

The lawsuits claim that the actions of the four defendants were “willful, wanton, reckless, and malicious” and seek a minimum of $75,000 from each defendant for damages Loudermill said he has suffered since his image was linked to the shooting.

The false identification caused Loudermill “to receive death threats and to suffer mental distress from having been exposed to public view and more specifically to experience periods of anxiety, agitation, and sleep disruption and such damages are likely to continue into the future,” the lawsuits state.

Arthur Benson, the lead attorney for Loudermill, declined to comment on the filing or why separate lawsuits have been filed against the lawmakers.

Brattin, Hoskins and Schroer are members of the Missouri Freedom Caucus, a hardcore conservative group that began as a Congressional faction among Republicans. Burchett is not a member of the Congressional caucus.

Senator Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, talks with Senator Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, during session on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Jefferson City. Senate Republican leadership has clashed with members of the Missouri Freedom Caucus holding up business.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, talks with Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, during session last January in Jefferson City.

The first social media account to accuse Loudermill of being the shooter and in the country illegally was on an account on X, formally known as Twitter, with the name Deep Truth Intel. That post, with a seated photo of Loudermill in handcuffs, incorrectly identified him with a name associated with misinformation posted after other shootings, including an October mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, that left 18 dead.

Soon after that initial social media post, the Missouri Freedom Caucus, Hoskins, Brattin, Schroer and Burchett 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. The Missouri Freedom Caucus also sought to retract its mistake, 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.”

Hoskins’ version on X shared a screenshot of the Deep Truth Intel post and blamed President Joe Biden and political leaders of Kansas City for making the shooting possible.

“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 posted.

That post has been deleted, but in a Feb. 14 post without a photo, Hoskins wrote that “information I’ve seen” states “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.”

Brattin’s first post linking Loudermill to the shooting, since deleted, demanded “#POTUS CLOSE THE BORDER” and incorporated the deleted Deep Truth Intel post.

Schroer was the least certain post about the immigration and arrest status of Loudermill among the three now being sued.

Sen. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, takes notes on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Sen. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles County, takes notes during an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing in January 2023 at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

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

“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.”

After the lawsuit was filed against Burchett, a spokesman told the Tennessee Lookout: “Our office is not able to comment on pending or active litigation.”

A GoFundMe effort on Loudermill’s behalf has raised $2,254 of its $15,000 goal and the money is being used to support efforts to scrub his image and inaccurate information from the internet, his legal adviser, LaRonna Lassiter Saunders said last month.

The lawsuits state that the false images of Loudermill spread rapidly.

Each states that the defendants’ “false assertions about plaintiff were reposted and widely circulated to more than 100,000 persons around the world who had interactions or engagements with defendant’s false assertions about plaintiff.”

This story was originally published by The Missouri Independent, part of the States Newsroom.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and state legislature as the Deputy Editor at The Missouri Independent.