Hays Police Department Saturday afternoon dismissed as untrue a widely spread social media message warning of a planned mass shooting at Walmart on Vine Street sometime during the day.
Posts about the supposed threat were being shared Saturday by users on Snapchat, Facebook and other social media sites.
“The Hays Police Department is aware of several social media posts alleging that there is an active shooter threat against multiple businesses in Hays,” said a statement issued Saturday afternoon by the police department. “We have been investigating these reports and we do not have any information that there is a credible threat against our community. Our investigation into these reports have found them to be false or unfounded. We have no credible information of any danger to our community. Should we receive information regarding an imminent threat to public safety, the information would be acted on immediately and a formal notification would be made to our community.”
One such warning post appeared briefly Saturday afternoon on Hays Swap Meet, a closed Facebook group of 12,000 that requires approval to get access to. The post was removed soon after.
Many police departments around the nation have denounced the warning as a nationwide hoax. The wording of the warning has been similar, but not exactly the same.
One that appeared on Snapchat was titled “PSA” and warned that “Everyone in the Hays area needs to be really aware of what they do and where the (sic) go tonight. The dispatchers and local deputies have been told there’s going to be a mass shooting in hays tonight. Stay AWAY from Walmart. Please pass this on.”
Police departments across the country have been getting questions about the supposed threat from people in their local area throughout this past week.
An Aug. 15 story by KLBK TV station quoted the Lubbock Police Department in Lubbock, Texas, as saying a Walmart shooting threat in Lubbock is a hoax.
Similar stories have been aired or posted by news outlets in Lexington, Ky., Dayton, Ohio, West Palm Beach, Fla., Savannah, Ga., Lexington, S.C., Bakersfield, Calif., and elsewhere, in which local police denounce the threat as a hoax.
“As always, if anyone has concerns that a crime is occurring, is going to occur, or has occurred, please contact law enforcement and provide them with the information,” said the Hays Police Department statement. “Threats of violence are taken very seriously and the safety of the public is our primary concern.
“We would caution people about recklessly posting or sharing false information (or information you don’t know to be true) on social media. We know that false information can rapidly spread on social media causing unnecessary fear and concern in the community. Social media is a great tool but we have to use it responsibly.”