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After hoax spreads online, police departments say to call them before sharing shooter rumors

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio

Police departments in Michigan are urging people to call them when they see online claims of mass shooting events.

That’s after an online hoax spread across social media in Michigan on Tuesday.

The online hoax claimed that active shooters were going door to door in and around five Michigan cities. None of it happened in any of the cities. The hoax is based on the plot of a movie.

Vanessa Burt is an officer with the Detroit Police Department. She says spreading false information about shootings is malicious, reckless and irresponsible.

“I get everyone wants to spread it and share it as many times as you can, but call us,” Burt says. “Let us know what you have.”

Police departments in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids also posted on their social media accounts to debunk the hoax.  

“When people intentionally start to spread that mass fear and manifest that chaos, that’s really cruel,” says Grand Rapids Police Sergeant Cathy Williams. “And it’s unnecessary. It’s irresponsible.”

Williams says the online post has been referred to the detective unit in Grand Rapids to determine whether any crimes were committed by the person who posted the hoax. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.