December 6, 2021

Cortlandville Walmart evacuates after false report

'Person with a gun' report follows national string of fear

A false, anonymous report Saturday night of a man with a gun forced the evacuation of the Cortlandville Walmart, according to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office.

The Walmart store received a phone call at 6:23 p.m. of a person with a gun inside the store at 819 Bennie Road, states a news release issued about 9 p.m. by the sheriff’s office.

“Responding officers searched the store and were unable to locate any such person,” said sheriff’s Capt. Rob Derksen in the release.

As a precaution, the 200,000-square-foot store was evacuated with the assistance of the Walmart employees, while a search was completed with the assistance of a number of law enforcement agencies, including Cortland police and state troopers.

Employees began heading back into the building about 8:30 p.m.; police began leaving at 8:48 p.m. The Walmart was re-opened by 9 p.m. and the investigation is continuing, including the source of the anonymous report, police said.

Shoppers Mark and Michele Howard of Locke said employees told them there was a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a rifle who had gone into a bathroom at the back of the store.

They said they had been shopping for about an hour and a half when they heard the announcement.

“Attention customers, everyone has to leave the store immediately,” they recalled as they stopped in their vehicle at the parking lot access to Bennie Road as they prepared to leave an hour later.

Customers were told to leave their shopping carts and exit the store. Police stopped them inside an exit and asked if they were armed, Mark Howard said.

The incident follows a series of hoaxes, misunderstandings, false reports and panic in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 30 people dead.

• Florida authorities charged a 26-year-old man Friday who they say posted a threat on Facebook that he was about to have his semi-automatic rifle returned and people should stay away from Walmart.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Richard Clayton on Friday north of Orlando. The agency said Clayton posted his threat on Aug. 4, the day after a gunman in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people and injured two dozen at a Walmart.
Investigators said the post read, “3 more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back. Don’t go to Walmart next week.”

• Prosecutors in Springfield, Missouri, filed a terrorist threat charge Friday against a 20-year-old man who said he walked into a Missouri store wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle and handgun to test whether Walmart would honor his constitutional right to bear arms.

The incident caused a panic at the Missouri, store. Dmitriy Andreychenko walked through filming himself with his cell phone Thursday afternoon.

No shots were fired and Andreychenko was arrested after he was stopped by an armed off-duty firefighter at the store.

• The northern Virginia office building that houses USA Today was evacuated for several hours Wednesday for what police said was an unsubstantiated report of an armed man.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said SWAT teams had searched “every inch” of the building after receiving a 911 call around noon reporting that someone who previously worked there had been seen with a gun.

The person referenced in the 911 call was located elsewhere, Roessler said. No one in the building was hurt and there was no indication that anyone had committed a crime, he said.

• Police in West Valley City, Utah, say panic spread briefly through a Utah mall after a falling sign made a gunshot-like sound, reflecting widespread anxiety after recent back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The Deseret News reports that no one was hurt and a search found no shooter at Valley Fair Mall Tuesday night.
West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku says shoppers went running after someone yelled “shots!” when a sign fell over during a concert at the mall.

• Two men arguing at a Walmart customer service counter in Baton Rouge, Louisianna, pulled guns on each other, setting off a stampede of panicked customers, some of whom thought there had been a shooting.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux says a preliminary investigation did not find any evidence of a shooting at a Walmart store in Baton Rouge, though authorities are still investigating.

• Frantic people scrambled to get out of Times Square on Tuesday evening, pounding on theater doors to find a place to hide after the sound of a motorcycle backfiring caused fear that gunshots were being fired in the wake of mass shootings in other American cities.

The New York Police Department, which said it received multiple 911 calls about the tumult, tweeted a reassurance: “There is no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots.”

“Please don’t panic,” the department added. “The Times Square area is very safe!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.