Forwarded email warns that MS-13 gang members are participating in a 'gang initiation rite' wherein they rear-end a car from behind and then shoot the driver when he or she exits the vehicle to check for damage
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: March 2008
Email contributed by Cynthia T., March 27, 2008:
FW: MS13 Gang Initiation
I received this from my niece who lives here in the area (Pearland).
A friend of mine that is a Harris County Police Officer forwarded the following text message to me that she just received from an officer at the Harris County Jail:
The subject is "PASS IT ON", and the message is "The MS13 gang is having their initiation, and it starts tonight. The initiation is that they bump your car, then when you get out, they shoot you."
Email example contributed by Amy Y., March 27, 2008:
FYI.... My nephew is a Correctional Officer at one of the Northern California area's institutions; their intelligence division just intercepted a message from the national known South American gang "MS13". The gang is expanding into the Northern California region rapidly. The message to the members "outside" was to hold gang initiations tonight
(Thursday 3/27/08). They plan to slightly "bump" cars from the rear or from the side. When the occupants get out of their cars to look at the damage and confront the offending car; they plan to shoot the individual. I certainly don't mean to cause you to panic or anything, but my nephew was told by his division officer to inform any and all his friends and family since they consider the threat very credible and likely to occur. I suggest that you email or call your friends and family in the area and inform them. Better to be a bit cautious, then to be sorry later.
Email contributed by Marlene P., March 28, 2008:
FW: IMPORTANT: FYI in Killeen, Texas
FYI. Stay alert
Just received a report that all soldiers this morning were informed that there is a new "gang" activity being reported in Killeen and I wanted to share this message. Recently, Killeen police officers have had several incidents that are still under investigation that newly incoming gang members will be driving a car and bump the car in front of them. Once the passenger exits the vehicle to look at damage the gang member will shoot the driver or passenger of the vehicle as an initiation. Please forward this to as many as possible for everyone’s safety.
Analysis: As of March 31, 2008 there have been zero I repeat, zero reported instances anywhere in the U.S. of carloads of MS-13 gang members rear-ending other vehicles and shooting the drivers as part of an "initiation rite." This is the case despite rampant rumors circulating via email and text message in New York, Texas, Florida, California and other parts of the country, and the issuance of police warnings in some locales claiming "credible evidence" that the rumors could be true.
Some authorities are cautioning drivers not to pull over if rear-ended, noting the possibility of copycat crimes irrespective of whether the rumors are true or false.
The rumors are very similar to other "gang initiation" urban legends circulating for the past 20 years, including bogus warnings to the effect that aspiring gang members drive with their headlights turned off and attack other drivers who respond with a courtesy flash.
One surprising development is that Buffalo, New York Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson has defended his department's decision to take the current rumors seriously by citing an actual incident earlier this month of a driver being shot after flashing his headlights at an oncoming car. "It appears that he could have been the innocent victim of a gang initiation rite,” Gipson told The Buffalo News. “We have factual evidence that led me to make the determination to issue that alert, so we’re not dealing with an urban myth here." Gipson also cited "credible information" from street informants.
Sources and further reading:
Gang May Be Using Rear-End Crashes to Initiate Members
KERO-TV News (Bakersfield, CA), 27 March 2008
MS-13 Considered the Nation's Most Violent Gang
WKBW-TV News (NY), 26 March 2008
Police Warn Gang May Stage Rear-End Collisions, Assault Motorists
Buffalo News (NY), 26 March 2008
Were Police Hoaxed into Airing Warning About Gang?
Buffalo News (NY), 28 March 2008
Police Departments Disagree About Gang Alert
WHAM-TV News (Rochester, NY), 28 March 2008
Police: No Evidence of Gang Initiation Plan
Fayetteville Observer (NC), 28 March 2008
Last updated: March 31, 2008