Threat of Gang Initiation Killings at Memphis Wal-Mart
SUMMARY: Email rumor warns that women and children will be killed at a Wal-Mart store in Memphis, Tennessee as part of a planned 'gang initiation' rite.
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: July 2005 (this version)
Status: False / Outdated
Update: A 2009 variant of this rumor claims women will be targeted for gang initiation violence in Wal-Mart stores all over the United States.
Update: A 2007 variant of this rumor claims women will be targeted for gang initiation violence in Memphis during the month of December.
Email contributed by L. Cousin, July 20, 2005:
FW: ***Walmart-Gang Initiations***
FYI... This is SCARY! Please pass this on to anyone you know that is a female and has children...
Please pass this on to everyone you know....
During the next two to three weeks, there will be gang initiations occurring in which the initiation is to kill a mother and small child shopping in Wal-Mart. I'm not sure how far the initiation reaches but this is supposed to be happening in the Desoto and Memphis areas for sure. Please tell everyone you know not to go shopping in Wal-Mart alone, especially if you're a woman accompanied by a small child.
I really hope this turns out to be a rumor. But just in case it isn't...... You can never be too cautious.
Email contributed by Jen H., July 20, 2005:
They have set up a killing spree, targeting black woman and young black girls. (Mother and Daughter) They are to shoot and kill them. These location has been set to target WAL-Mart, K-Mart, Target, and any department store's. I ask that you watch your surroundings at all times. Ladies if you could go to the stores with a few others, maybe a man, your husband or a male figure, it would cut down on the chances and may help save a life. there is some rumors going around that gas stations may also be a hit area. Ladies watch yourself at the pumps. There is no set time that the event will accrue, just take caution.
The Word of God tells us to "Watch as well as Pray". so let us be wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove. As I get anymore news on this, I will pass along what I have. We here in Memphis at the Sheriff Department and the metro gang unit is trying to keep on top of this issue.
Comments: Here's what the Memphis Police Department had to say after looking into the claims above:
"While the Memphis Police Department takes such threats seriously, our investigation has not yet identified any specific gang or any specific victims."
According to explanations given by public officials on WPTY-TV News in Memphis, the rumor currently circulating via email began as a casual word-of-mouth warning overheard by a woman in a public restroom. When questioned, the witness was unable to identify who uttered the warning, however, or who is allegedly behind the threatened attacks.
Just to be sure, police patrols were beefed up in and around major shopping centers and citizens were asked to report any suspicious behavior, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin told WMC-TV News. "I think citizens should be alarmed of any kind of threat," he added. In the same story, officer Pat Lovett of the Metro Gang Unit emphasized vigilance over fear: "You need to take precaution pay attention to what you're doing but that's something that should be a daily routine and habit in this day and age."
Ultimately, the warnings proved completely false and no related incidences of violence were reported.
Sources and further reading:
Threat of Gang Violence at Local Malls
WMC-TV News, 19 July 2005
Mid-Southerners Ask if Gang Violence Threats Are Exaggerated
WMC-TV News, 19 July 2005
Gang Violence Threatened at Memphis Malls
Associated Press, 20 July 2005
Deadly Gang Initiation Rumor
WPTY-TV News, 20 July 2005
Last updated: 03/20/09