Gang Initiation Text Message Circulating

Emmy -- March 19th, 2009

This afternoon I received a text message forward from a friend stating that there was going to be a gang initiation tonight at one of the local Wal-Marts. It stated that three women would be shot as part of this initiation. According to the HPD this message has been circulating in other areas as well. At this point they have said that there is nothing verifiable about this message and are asking people to not continue forwarding  it to others.

28 Responses to “Gang Initiation Text Message Circulating”

  1. Laura says:

    The text is believed to be part of a hoax that started in Memphis, Tenn., in 2005. I found that out by Googleing, but it gave me a scare for a minute, so I see why people keep forwarding it!

  2. Prior to the HPD release, a few local Twitterers heard about it, and were searching for information.

    Renee Twittered a link to Snopes, which classifies this as a hoax dating back to at least 2005.

  3. TM says:

    Reminds me of the rumors that circulated in my day (though not by text message) about not flashing your brights at cars without their lights on.

  4. Emmy says:

    How do these things start back up? It’s so strange. My friend sent it to me and I wasn’t near a computer to check on it. She forwarded it because she got it while at work from her sister and just wanted to make sure her friends were safe. I know why people forward them, but I don’t understand why someone starts this stuff.

  5. Emmy says:

    TM I still think about that rumor when I see cars without their lights on.

  6. We live in a very fear-motivated society. I’m not sure if it’s a human thing, or if it’s uniquely American.

  7. Jenn says:

    This stuff is bogus! Today in class it seemed like all of the sudden all the girls were looking at their phones and showing everyone sitting beside them. I got at least three texts myself. At first, it may sound scary and you may initially think there’s some truth behind it. But think about it, when gangs planned to do an initiation they aren’t going to leak out the information to someone who would warn the general population or put it on the news. They are very close-knit and would not let something as serious as murder plans slip out to the community.

  8. Justin says:

    I wouldn’t have furthered the information if my wife hadn’t hadn’t been told the HPD had issued a warning. Turns out you can’t even trust someone face to face.

  9. Justin says:

    From JMU and HPD:

    March 19, 2009
    The Harrisonburg Police Department wants to inform the public of a text message that is being sent throughout the City of Harrisonburg and surrounding areas.

    The text message is telling individuals that there will be a gang initiation at Wal-Marts sometime this week, possibly involving a shooting or other serious criminal activity.

    HPD has been informed that other law enforcement agencies outside this area have received the same information within the last few days.

    At this point there is nothing verifiable about this text message. If you receive the text message please do not forward it to anyone else.

  10. Emmy says:

    I actually saw my friend right after she sent the text and she told me the HPD had said it was true too, so I understand what you’re saying Justin.

  11. TM says:

    State Police have released a statement as well calling it outright a hoax.
    “The Virginia State Police are advising Virginians to pay no attention to a phony text message that has recently begun to resurface across the southeastern United States. The text message claims that there will be a gang initiation at Wal-Marts sometime this week that may possibly involve a shooting or other serious criminal activity. The message states that it is from “police” and is a warning for “women.” “

  12. JGFitzgerald says:

    I left newspapers in 1995, and the story was already circulating then. Two other favorites were the woman who had her Achilles tendon cut (no, really, a friend of a cousin of a guy I work with …) and the snakes in the ball-pit at MacDonalds (which the police were covering up, even back then, to avoid a panic). I think these stories are just too good to keep. BTW, do y’all know what Coca-Cola can be used for in an emergency?

  13. Justin, in this case, I think the system (meaning “acts of journalism” by citizens such as yourself) worked. The texts were sent out. You alerted your followers, checked for more info, and we (you, Renee, others) were able to tell that this was a hoax before the release was issued.

  14. Karl says:

    Brent, don’t confuse acts of journalism with common sense. Jenn’s comments above are right on the money.

    My wife called me about it yesterday afternoon, I didn’t need to call anyone or be tweeted to know it was a load of bull. I told her it was a hoax that has played out many times before and that she didn’t need to go outside with her “I heart MS-13” t-shirt in order to remain safe.

    Glad the police issued a statement, but sorry they had to waste resources on such foolishness.

  15. Karl, that’s probably true. However, the word “hoax” appears nowhere in the release (see Justin’s comment). The texts are referred to as “information” and “nothing verifiable,” but not a hoax. The rest of the release urges general caution and safety.

    Recommended safety tips

    * Always make sure the doors and windows of your home and vehicle are locked
    * Pay attention to your surroundings, especially at night
    * Don’t walk while talking on a cell phone or with headphones on
    * Use the buddy system and walk or travel with a friend
    * Call police if you see something suspicious

    What’s my point? If, as you say, it’s common sense that this is “a load of bull,” why not call a spade a spade?

  16. Justin says:

    There need to be key elements in a hoax for me to even want to look up But I got word of this from 1) someone that I know who knows a lot about this and got a text message from his daughter and 2) my wife who got word that HPD was already involved.

    You don’t need much more than that to send out instant messages or tweets to at least immediately warn your friends and family. Luckily, I was able to re-communicate on those channels the instant I found out it was a hoax.

    It’s very easy to look back on an instance like this and realize how trusting information, no matter the source, can always come back and haunt you.

  17. Karl says:


    Police DID use the word “hoax.”

    This from the State Police press release yesterday:

    “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 message should simply delete it. Individuals are discouraged from forwarding such misinformation to others.”

    HPD meanwhile has a duty to remind people of general public safety, especially in light of people feeling threatened.

  18. Fair enough, Karl. I hadn’t seen the state police release, just the HPD one. And now I see that TM quoted the state police release above.

  19. seth says:

    i’m going to be a major league a hole and say that i’m not surprised that the same crowd that puts so much stock in hope took this so seriously

  20. Who exactly put stock in it, Seth?

  21. seth says:

    in hope? anyone who believed change is something other than what you’ll make instead of dollars if something miraculous doesn’t happen

  22. Hi, Seth. This is a blog. These are comments. This story is about a text message hoax. That’s what we’re talking about. What are you talking about?

  23. seth says:

    gullibillity and the confusion that ensues when we improperly reference subjects.

  24. Emmy says:

    My first thought was hoax too and I didn’t forward it to anyone. I came home and checked it out.

    But you know what, I don’t blame people one bit for being concerned about people and wanting to make sure they are safe and I don’t think it makes them stupid or gullible for doing so.

    The friend who sent it to me said she didn’t know if it was true or not, but she would feel terrible if she didn’t send it and something happened. That makes her a good person and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  25. Sunny says:

    I received this text yesterday and with all the talk about gang activity it concerned me. I did forward it to a couple of family members. I later received a text from some unknown person asking me who I was and why I sent that text. I told them it was forwarded to me and I forwarded it to family memers. He went on and on about I could go to jail and I told him if I had started it then yes I could go to jail but I can forward it to whoever I want and I would rather be safe than sorry. I asked them if they were a gang member and that stopped the text messages.

  26. Christa says:

    I too received the forwarded text yesterday. I called the person who sent it to me and they said they were just sending it along. I proceded to call the Sheriff’s Office and reported it. I don’t do forwards via e-mail OR text.

  27. @Sunny You can’t go to jail for speech, unless it’s fraud, libel, or something akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. While life on earth might be better spent in pursuit of truth, no court will punish you for spreading a bogus message that doesn’t violate anyones rights.

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