Lt. Merrill debunks internet story
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- A warning about human trafficking at a local store has gone viral with more than 100,000 people having seen or shared the story online.
But Grand Rapids police say it is a hoax.
Lt. Patrick Merrill received hundreds of calls from concerned residents about a story that was circulating the internet. "I received phone calls from family members who lived on the opposite side of the state."
The viral Facebook post says, "Human traffickers are now in Grand Rapids. A friend of mine was being stalked." The story says the trafficking happened at a local grocery store and provides details of "a team of people working together" to kidnap the friend.
It suggests the friend was injected with drugs and the store knew about the crime but could not do anything to stop it. The story ends with a plea to please share.
After an investigation, Lt. Merrill explains, "We found no elements of the story to be true at all." He said no report had been filed with police and he contacted the store and made a special trip to visit it and speak with managers. "I talked to them and realized they had no idea where this came from."
Lt. Merrill learned of similar stories circulating on the internet. "There are a couple of different variations and versions floating around. 'This didn't happen to me, it happened to a friend of mine' -- that is a big flag," said Merrill.
Lt. Merrill put out his own internet statement on the Grand Rapids Police Department Facebook page debunking the story.
If you come across a story that you think is suspicious, Lt. Merrill suggests you "contact your local police authorities and ask us to check it out. That is what we get paid for."