Federal law enforcement recently arrested a 33-year-old Massachusetts man, identified as Brian McCreary, in relation to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. A WBEZ report on Jan. 8 incorrectly identified McCreary, who authorities say was photographed inside the Capitol wearing a blue mask, as Matthew Heimbach, a former leader of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party.
After WBEZ published reports on air and online identifying Heimbach, Heimbach contacted WBEZ stating that he was not the individual in the photograph and he had been in Tennessee with his family that day. WBEZ then updated its reports to include statements that Heimbach denied being the person depicted in photos of people inside the Capitol building during the insurrection. In the meantime, Heimbach provided information to reach his wife’s boss, who is also Heimbach’s father-in-law.
On Jan.10, a Domino’s pizza employee tweeted that the man wearing the blue mask in the Capitol photos was a coworker named Brian McCreary. WBEZ spoke with the author of the tweet, a 19-year-old college student in Western Massachusetts in efforts to confirm Heimbach’s assertion. WBEZ is not identifying the author of the tweet because of concerns for their safety.
“I had like 10 followers on Twitter to begin with. And then as the day went on and into the next two days, I had to shut off Twitter notifications because it was like 100 people liking it every second,” the source said. Minutes after the tweet was posted, the source said they also submitted an online tip form to the FBI to identify the person in the photograph as Brian McCreary.
Days later, the FBI visited the Domino’s and interviewed employees about McCreary. On Jan. 19, WBEZ attempted to contact McCreary to verify whether the individual in the photo was him. He did not respond.
According to the complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., McCreary voluntarily provided a statement to the FBI on Jan. 26. The complaint states that McCreary acknowledged entering the Capitol on Jan 6. “McCreary further stated that he understood going into the building ‘might not have been legal’ but ‘he made a personal choice at that point,’ ” the complaint states.
In the spirit of transparency, it is important that WBEZ acknowledge the error in our reporting and express regret. Like some other news organizations, we allowed sources we believed to be reliable on the subject to guide our reporting. Because of the reporting errors, WBEZ has removed mentions of Heimbach from the web and audio versions of the report, which is a larger story about images, symbols and attire worn by white supremacy extremists pictured inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Accuracy in reporting is something we work to do diligently every day at WBEZ. This series of events has allowed us the opportunity to better assess how we use online sources, strengthen best practices to verify information and be more transparent about our reporting process.