Pasco, WA – Police officials said that a woman who wrote a long Facebook post about sex traffickers trying to grab her daughter in a Pasco Walmart was “crying wolf” and that the incident never happened.
The false Facebook post got more than 1,600 shares and created a panic in the community, KEPR reported.
The woman posted the false information at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night and claimed she had just returned from the Road 68 Walmart in Pasco.
She said that her 12-year-old daughter was “almost taken” while they were shopping in the store at about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13.
The woman wrote that a man had smiled at her daughter and signaled for her to go to him, and that he then followed them around the store with his phone as they tried to get away from him.
Then she claimed another man targeted her daughter as they shopped for bananas, and wrote that she grabbed her daughter, abandoned their shopping cart, and ran from the store.
The post said the woman locked herself in her car with her daughter and cried after the incident.
“Never did I think this would happen to me. Never did I think I would be writing this. SICK, SCARY PEOPLE ARE IN THIS WORLD,” the woman wrote.
She also went on to say she had reported the incident to the police and Walmart, and claimed that particular Walmart had several similar incidents occur that were available in police records.
The terrifying post quickly went viral and Pasco police began investigating, according to a statement on the Pasco Police Department’s official Facebook page.
Police talked to Walmart and learned they had not been notified by the woman who had posted the account.
Then they reviewed surveillance video inside the store and identified the woman who had made the post in the videos.
“No attempted luring occurred,” Pasco police said definitively in their post. “The original poster reported that they were alarmed by the number of men inside the Walmart on Friday evening, on their cell phones, who looked at the poster’s 12-year-old daughter. The poster implies that the men were part of a sex trafficking ring. In particular, the man described as following them around the store is actually shown on security video to be stationary, playing on his phone, glancing up at the poster and girl, stepping out of their way, and resuming standing there, playing on his phone.”
“The idea of a stranger abduction in public is every parent’s worst nightmare, and the poster’s actual fear level may remain unknown, but a review of the video indicates that the fear was unreasonable, that no-one is seen following the poster’s daughter, and that no-one is seen stepping toward her,” police continued.
Police said that the woman did not contact police or Walmart when the incident supposedly occurred, but that Pasco police tracked her down through her Facebook page on Sunday.
“The poster admitted ‘embellishing a lot’ of the story when reinterviewed by police,” Pasco police wrote. “The poster admitted lying about contacting the police because the poster feared being judged harshly by commenters if the poster did not claim to have already contacted the police. The call to the non-emergency line and the entire conversation the poster paraphrases never took place. Worse, the reported conversation contains bad info that no reader should rely on.”
“The poster admitted that they did not abandon the cart and half-carry the daughter out to the car, where they sat and cried for awhile. In reality, they purchased their items, pushed the cart out to the car, and drove off,” police said.
The woman’s post was deleted shortly after police showed up at her front door to discuss it, KEPR reported.
"All of the information was not true. She was creating a paranoia out there that doesn't need to be there because it’s false," Pasco Police Sergeant Scott Warren said. "She went as far to say that she might have embellished a lot of what she thought was going on.”
Police said that woman could be facing charges for the false post that caused mass hysteria, KEPR reported.
"It could be a misdemeanor all the way to a Class A felony," Sgt. Warren said.
Although the post was deleted, it was copied and reposted by numerous people and has continued to cause panic in the Pasco area, KEPR reported.