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Father at centre of Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook hoax lies tells trial he felt like he ‘failed’ his slain daughter

AP

The grieving father at the centre of Alex JonesSandy Hook hoax lies has revealed how the far-right conspiracy theorist left him feeling like he “failed” his murdered daughter.

Robbie Parker returned to the witness stand on Thursday to testify in Mr Jones’ defamation trial, as jurors weigh how much he must pay to the families of victims of the 2012 mass shooting for the harassment they suffered because of his lies.

Choking back tears, he told jurors how he believed he was “failing” six-year-old Emilie’s memory as Mr Jones lies continued to spread lies about her.

“I already felt like I failed Emilie as a dad when she was alive because we sent her to school,” Mr Parker testified.

“And I was especially starting to feel like I was failing her in her death because of what people were saying about her and what they were saying about me trying to remember her.”

Mr Parker’s six-year-old daughter Emilie was one of the 26 students and staff members murdered in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 14 December 2012.

One day after the massacre, the devastated father gave a brief speech to the media where he paid tribute to his little girl who “made the world a better place” for being in it.

Unbeknownst to Mr Parker at the time, it was the first time any of the victims’ family members had spoken out publicly following their deaths.

As he walked up to the microphone, he briefly smiled – something that instantly made him a target of the conspiracy theorist’s lies.

Over the following years, Mr Jones repeatedly mocked Mr Parker’s heartbreaking moment of intense grief on his far-right conspiracy show Infowars and branded him “a soap opera actor”.

On the witness stand at Mr Jones’ defamation trial on Thursday, Mr Parker described one chilling incident in the fall of 2016 where he and his family travelled to Seattle to attend an event for a nonprofit, which they had partnered through their foundation in set up in Emilie’s memory.

“It was four years from Sandy Hook and 3,000 miles from Sandy Hook,” he said.

Mr Parker said his wife and two other daughters were at their hotel and he had gone to leave their car in a parking garage.

Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, speaks at a news conference the day after the massacre (AP)

As he was walking to the hotel to join his family, he said he noticed a man walking towards him giving him “one of those looks like you look familiar”.

The man asked him: “Didn’t you have a daughter that was killed?”

Mr Parker said that he replied that his daughter was a student killed at Sandy Hook.

While he said it was “awkward”, Mr Parker said he had become used to people asking him this and, usually, they would go to hug him or offer their condolences. Expecting that sort of reaction, he said he reached out his hand to offer to shake the man’s hand.

Mr Parker had to pause to compose himself as he gave gutwrenching testimony about how the stranger in the street began hurling abuse at him.

“He looked down at my hand and just stared at me and he was just looking at me and saying: ‘How do you sleep at night you f***ing piece of s***?’” he said.

“He had so much venom and so much hatred for who he thought I was. ‘How much f***ing money did you get from the f***ing government you f***ing a**hole?’”

Mr Parker said he feared for his family and so started walking away from the man in the opposite direction to the hotel.

“I wanted to get as far from my family as I could,” he said.

But, the man followed him and continued to shout at him, he said.

“’Emilie is alive isnt she? She’s alive.’ He keeps going and keeps going,” Mr Parker testified.

The grieving father told how he tried to stay calm and not respond but eventually snapped at the man as he kept saying his murdered daughter’s name.

“I’m just trying to hold it in and for years I’ve been dealing with it.... and he said Emilie’s name one more time and I turned around and I looked at him,” he said, paraphrasing what he said next.

“‘How dare you, you’re talking about my daughter. She was killed. Who do you think you are? How do you sleep at night?’,” he said he confronted the man.

“We went at it, we were yelling at each other. That circle of people around us got wider and wider.”

Eventually, Mr Parker said he managed to walk away from the man and spent the next 20 minutes circling the block making sure that neither he nor anyone else was following him as he made his way back to his family.

When he arrived at their hotel room, he said “just started bawling”.

The incident in fall 2016 came as Mr Jones continued to spread lies that he was an actor faking his daughter’s death – four years on from the little girl’s murder.

Jurors were shown a video clip from one of Mr Jones’ Infowars shows dated 18 November 2016 where he played part of Mr Parker’s 2012 speech to the media and branded him an actor.

“He’s a worse actor than Glenn Beck, ok, this is disgusting,” he tells his viewers, adding that Mr Parker is doing “classic acting training”.

Screenshot of a photo of Alissa and Robbie Parker leaving the firehouse at Sandy Hook having learned their daughter Emilie had been killed in the shooting on 14 December 2012 (Law & Crime)

Mr Parker went on to tell the court how he realised Mr Jones and his vile lies weren’t going away when he learned that the right-wing conspiracy theorist was fuelling similar harassment of families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting.

After the 2018 massacre, he said one of the victim’s parents reached out to him.

Mr Parker said he and his wife could “see ourselves in them”.

The parents then revealed that they had been subjected to online abuse claiming that they were staging a “false flag event”, he said.

Jurors were shown a transcript from Mr Jones’ deposition where he admitted that he called parents of Parkland victims “crisis actors”.

Mr Parker told the court that seeing Mr Jones do the same thing to other grieving families six years on was a “big catalyst” for him realising he had to “fight” the right-wing troll’s lies.

It was “six years now and it wasn’t going away,” he said.

“This is the same playbook. He’s doing it again,” he said.

“Because of them sharing what they felt I really tasted how atrocious it was and how bitter it is to have to deal with this when all you have to do is grieve.”

It was then that he said he wanted to join the lawsuit against Mr Jones to “stand up” to him.

Mr Parker was one of the last victims’ family members to join the Connecticut defamation lawsuit – the second to make it to trial.

Mr Jones began spouting false claims just hours after the 2012 massacre, claiming on his conspiracy site that the mass shooting was “a giant hoax” and that the victims were “actors”.

He continued to push the lies to his followers for years claiming it was a “false flag” operation.

While Mr Jones profited financially from spreading his lies, the victims’ families were subjected to years of in-person and online harassment and threats from his followers.

In a Texas trial last month, Mr Jones admitted that he knew the 2012 massacre was real – and not a “hoax” as he had previously claimed it was.

In that case, he was ordered to pay $4.11m in compensatory damages and $45.2m in punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of six-year-old victim Jesse Lewis.

Now, jurors in Connecticut will decide how much Mr Jones must pay those families in damages.

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