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Rumors Spread Fear and Panic Over Empty Gun Threat At Cortland Walmart

Local News

Panic erupted Saturday (August 10) evening as rumors spread both on- and offline about a possible masked gunman inside the Walmart off Route 281 in Cortlandville.

WXHC News was the first to confirm with the Sheriff’s Department that this threat was unfounded, but not before countless unconfirmed details circulated about people and events that ultimately did not exist.

Officers with the Cortland Sheriff’s Department were called to the store just before 6:30 p.m. along with both City and State Police.

An anonymous caller had phoned the Walmart and claimed there was someone inside the store with a gun who intended to do harm.

Responding officers quickly searched the premises and found no such threat. Out of an abundance of caution, they evacuated the building with the help of Walmart employees and conducted an additional “comprehensive” search of the property, which also turned up nothing.

While all that information was being developed and confirmed, the inevitable gossiping on social media produced countless unconfirmed details ranging from a masked man with long hair walking the aisles with a long gun, to an individual barricaded with weaponry in the store’s bathroom.

An article from more than a year ago was even being shared on social media with the false understanding that it was information related to Saturday’s events.

“It’s amazing how fast things can spread,” said Sheriff Helms in a message to News Director Vinnie Bellardini. “We thank you guys [WXHC] for always helping us get the true word out.”

A little less than two hours after the call, all searches were complete and the store was reopened to the public.

Sheriff Helms says investigation into the incident continues, including the source of the anonymous caller.

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