Wednesday August 1, 2018
By Paul Walsh
Authorities are troubled by what they called a "dangerous false narrative" that spread fear and anxiety as it was passed around hundreds of times.
A false Facebook posting
about a Somali man attempting to abduct a woman from a St. Cloud
Walgreens has police scrambling to snuff out a "dangerous false
narrative" that has been reposted hundreds of times, spreading
unwarranted "fear [and] anxiety."
supposed attempted abduction Friday night from the Walgreens at the
intersection of Division Street and 25th Avenue N. in St. Cloud prompted
police to immediately open a criminal investigation, which came to a
halt once authorities learned from the posting's author and the supposed
victim that it was all made up.
store video showed the woman portrayed as the victim visiting Walgreens
that evening, nothing spelled out in the posting was revealed in that
footage, police said.
Justin, of Brainerd, acknowledged Wednesday that she wrote the posting,
and said she believed her relative was telling her the truth when she
told her what happened at the store.
no reason for me not to believe this, because of the hysterics
involved," Justin said. "There was an incident, but it wasn't that.
Someone tried to attack her, but it was not at Walgreens."
said that "on the one hand, I feel foolish, but on the other hand, this
is a scary world and things like this happen a lot."
casting of the bad guy as Somali caught the attention of a nonprofit
that seeks to ease racial, religious and cultural tensions in St. Cloud,
where issues surrounding ethnicity have been strained for the past
#UniteCloud shared on Facebook the Police Department's disclosure about
the false crime and said, "We are better than this."
Ringsmuth, found and director of #UniteCloud, said she spoke with Justin
and realized she "is really embarrassed [and] just wanted people to be
safe." A portion of the woman's posting included advice on how to
protect one's self in public.
specifying that the suspect was Somali, the posting "paints a picture
that all Somalis are bad people," added Ringsmuth, who said she has also
been in touch with police and Walgreens officials about the posting.
police report on the posting was made, there is no crime to be charged,
said Assistant Police Chief Jeff Oxton, who declined to identify the
author or the woman cast as the abduction target.
organizations and many people are reposting this Facebook post as
truth," Oxton said Wednesday, "which has spread fear, anxiety and an
incredibly dangerous false narrative ... to hundreds if not thousands of
posting began with someone "dear to my heart ... was feeling like she
was being followed — every aisle she went down, there he was."
leaving the store, the post continued, "she opened her car door, he
showed up right behind her and tried pushing her into the car. She
screamed and fought with him a bit before a car pulled up — a man got
out of the car and started yelling at [the suspect] and he ran away. The
man got back in his car and chased [the suspect] but I don't believe he
was ever found."
posting described the perpetrator as "Somalian, as were all the people
in the store, including the cashier — therefore, [that's] the reason she
didn't say anything about being nervous when she checked out."
Facebook and other social media can be effective in getting important
information to the public and is used by law enforcement across the
country in alerting the public about safety concerns.
"when false narratives are spread about specific incidents, that same
social media effect can be negative and can have potentially