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Posted: March 19, 2009 7:31 p.m.

Wal-Mart hoax leads to resignation of 911 employee

A Newton County 911 employee has resigned after reportedly sending out an e-mail to friends and family members about a supposed gang initiation at Wal-Mart on Industrial Boulevard Wednesday evening.

The e-mail created a panic throughout the community.

The e-mail warned that Newton County Police had advised dispatchers that a gang initiation would be starting in Newton and surrounding counties Wednesday night and would last 24-hours.

"Word is that those trying to get into two local gangs are to go into Wal-Mart and kill a man, woman or child and get out," the e-mail reads. It goes on to urge citizens to avoid the store for at least 24-hours, if not longer.

CPD officials released a statement Wednesday afternoon after receiving and influx of calls, which read, in part, "We have been diligently investigating this particular e-mail and, as of yet, have not found it to have any validity. We have also been made aware of similar e-mails circulating in other parts of this state as well as other states. As of yet, those e-mails have also not been found to be credible. We will continue to investigate this claim to ensure the safety of our citizens. However, at this time, we find this e-mail to have no merit. As always, if a safety concern arises, we will make every effort to alert our citizens."

And although the gang initiation portion of the e-mail proved false, the claim that a 911 employee had provided the information proved to be true.

According to Mike Smith, director of the Covington-Newton County 911 Center, there was a trainee at the center who received the information and chose to pass it on.

The information was not given by 911 officials and passing along such information is against policy and procedures of the 911 center.

The trainee apparently sent the information to a spouse who passed the information along to a family member and the rumor spread from there.

"This employee has chosen to tender a resignation effective immediately," said Smith. "If such information were received by us and deemed a credible threat then an official notification would be sent to the public as well as other public safety agencies."


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