Warning of Wal-Mart violence a hoax, police say

Published 8:17 am Friday, March 20, 2009

People who got a mysterious text message that warned women not to go to Wal-Mart because a gang initiation would take place there need not fear, according to Franklin police, because the text was a hoax.

The mass e-mail with the same subject was hooey, too.

“Nothing was substantiated. Nothing was confirmed,” said Lt. Tim Whitt. “We’re basically trying to put people’s minds at ease.”

At around 7 p.m. Wednesday, police were notified that the text message was going around.

“The text warned women not to go to Wal-Mart on the night of March 18th as there would be three women shot as part of a gang initiation,” Whitt said. “The origin of the text message was traced to Williamsburg, however it is still unknown who sent it.”

Whitt said the Franklin Wal-Mart was not specifically mentioned.

By Thursday morning, the rumor has circulated again and was revealed as having gone nationwide.

“Police r asking all women not 2 go 2 Wal-Mart tonight,” the text message said. “There’s a gang initiation and three women will be shot. This is not a joke. Pass to every woman you know.”

The text warning was reported on in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana, to name a few.

An article on snopes.com, a Web site that investigates hoaxes, said rumors about gang initiations at Wal-Mart have been spread since 2005.

Whitt said the police department had been inundated with calls about the rumors.

Virginia State Police issued a press release late Thursday.

“After receiving numerous calls from concerned citizens about such messages, the Virginia Fusion Center immediately began looking into the matter,” the press release said. “At this point, there is nothing verifiable about the text message and it has been determined to be a hoax and the threats not credible.

Anyone receiving such a text message should simply delete it. Individuals are discouraged from forwarding such misinformation to others.”

Anyone who may have information in relation to the origin of the text message is asked to call the Franklin Police Department at (757) 562-8575 or Franklin Crime Solvers at (757) 562-8599.