We still don’t know many of the details about the recent shooting in Arvada that left two people dead in addition to the initial gunman: Arvada police officer Gordon Beesly and an armed bystander, John Hurley. The Arvada Police Department characterizes Hurley as a “Good Samaritan” and hero whose decision to draw his pistol and engage the shooter potentially saved lives.
Several reports profiling Hurley note that he was an idealist, an outspoken activist for individual rights, and a member of “community organization” We Are Change (WAC) Colorado, without exploring the group’s admittedly extreme beliefs. WAC Colorado describes Hurley as “one of We Are Change’s longest members and a foundational part of WAC.”
We Are Change Colorado is a state chapter of We Are Change, a right-wing conspiracy group founded by alt-right conspiracist and 9-11 truther Luke Rudkowski, who has already started using the Arvada shooting to solicit donations not only for Hurley’s family but for his own group.
WAC Colorado promotes a wide variety of disinformation, ranging from “9-11 was an inside job” to various anti-vaccine, COVID hoax, and 2020 election fraud conspiracies, including the debunked “Dominion Voting flipped votes” conspiracy.
We Are Change rejects the characterization of its beliefs as right-wing or even partisan, writing in an April 2020 Facebook post
We seek to expose the fraud of the left/right paradigm and reveal that the world truly functions on a top/down hierarchy that threatens to destroy free society as we know it. We Are Change works to educate, motivate, and activate those striving to uncover the truth behind the private banking cartel of the military industrial complex that is directing the majority of U.S. policy, and that is actively seeking to eliminate national sovereignty and replace it with a “one world order.”
Besides conspiracies, however, WAC Colorado also promotes right-wing content such as videos opposing Critical Race Theory curriculum, pro-Trump statements, and paid political ads for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The page also shares QAnon conspiracies about “elite child sex trafficking rings.”
Over the years one of the site’s most consistent themes is its pro-gun content. WAC Colorado shares numerous memes rejecting gun safety legislation and promotes gun-related conspiracy theories, including Alex Jones’ debunked claim that the 2012 Aurora theatre massacre was a “false flag” government operation intended to facilitate stricter gun control laws.
Anti-government extremist researcher J.J. McNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, scoured social media for information on Hurley and others involved in the shooting. She discovered he “self-identified as a ‘right-wing extremist.'”
We Are Change Colorado has hosted numerous events in and around Denver over the years. In 2014, WAC hosted a libertarian gun rights activist named Adam Kokesh, who shared his story of going to jail for intentionally carrying a gun in Washington, D.C. to protest the District’s ordinance on handguns. The event was one of several WAC Colorado events Kokesh has participated in.
Kokesh still hosts a conspiracist podcast on his YouTube channel, which has over 250,000 followers. This week he addressed the Arvada shooting, saying that Hurley was a friend of his and that they met through WAC Colorado.
After reading a couple lines of a news report, Kokesh began proposing conspiracies about the shooting, including speculating that the police set up the shooting to murder Hurley.
Reading the news report in which Hurley is described by the Arvada Chief of Police as having likely prevented further loss of life, Kokesh began casting doubt on the reporting.
“Of course, a believable story for his friends and family to say, ‘Oh yeah he died a hero. Let’s just accept that,” said Kokesh.
Kokesh also began proposing alternate explanations without any substanstiation or evidence.
“This is really f’ing suspicious,” Kokesh said. “At first I took it at face value…I have to wonder what kind of cover-up is going on… What scenario has to take place for all three of them to die? The cop gets ambushed by the person who has expressed hatred for cops Guy ambushes cop, shoots cop, Hurley intervenes, gets shot by accident, attacker shoots himself? Cops shot him and he bled out? There are multiple options where Hurley the GS jumps in the middle, but if you go to the far side — if you want to go with that unlikely a possibility — it’s just as unlikely that they [cops] just wanted to murder him [Hurley] in daylight and wanted to cover it up and figured out a way…I just need to get this on the record that this isn’t what it seems.”
Kokesh is right about one thing. There are many options as to what actually happened. Those facts aren’t yet known, yet conspiracists like Kokesh and We Are Change founder Rudkowski are spinning conspiracies for clicks and dollars.
Rudkowski has been tweeting about the shooting and recently posted a video on the We Are Change YouTube channel (nearly 700k followers) attacking the Arvada Police Department for, he claims, “trying to obfuscate what happened here” and declining to comment until it finishes its investigation. The video description includes links to both the GoFundMe page for Hurley’s family and We Are Change’s own fundraising page.