Social media causes stir around weekend Fergus Falls Walmart situationFergus Falls, MN (WDAY TV) - Blame it on social media. Rumors got out of control after police surrounded the Fergus Falls Walmart over the weekend.
Fergus Falls, MN (WDAY TV) - Blame it on social media. Rumors got out of control after police surrounded the Fergus Falls Walmart over the weekend.
On Facebook and Twitter, I read posts about a hostage situation, an in-store shooting, you name it.
The only ones with real information were the police - who were too busy at the time to get out a press release.
You could call it the "Perfect Storm" for social media. Post after Post. Tweet after Tweet. All saying what "may have been" happening at the Fergus Falls Walmart.
Jerad Casper, Fergus Falls: "It would be nice to have the facts right away, but you can't always have those right away."
Hundreds headed to Facebook for answers - of why more than 20 officers surrounded the store Saturday night.
Jerad Casper was one of the first to calm the storm.
Casper: "I just think it was a prank call. That's what I heard."
Turns out, the chaos started from a threatening phone call, mentioning a gun. There were no injuries. No arrests made. But it was the start of a major headache for the Fergus Falls Police Department.
Lt. Terry Eldien, Fergus Falls Police: "When we have something involving a 246 thousand square foot building with multiple people inside, it creates quite a situation for us logistically."
And that means, there was no time to update media outlets with the facts. So the social media storm begins.
One tweet says: "Do not go to Walmart! Apparently there is a hostage situation!"
And another: “The Walmart in Fergus Falls just got shot up...I thought it was safe up here.."
All adding to increased fear in the community.
Casper: "Yeah, I was scared until I talked to my mom."
It's situations like this that are forcing the Fergus Falls Police Department to step it up a notch when it comes to social media. It's now starting a Facebook page for instant access to information.
Eildeen: "It's so easy to share a link nowadays, or to share a page, at least you can share the factual information."
It didn't help that Fergus Falls Police had two other problems to battle throughout the night.
One, involving a 17-year-old boy who showed someone a shotgun, then walked down the street, gun in hand.
He's arrested and facing charges.