A tweet was posted on the evening of Nov. 6 describing an attempted kidnapping of a female student earlier that day and warning Mississippi State University students to be careful on campus.
However, the attempted kidnapping detailed in the social media post has since been proved completely fraudulent.
According to the MSU Police Department Chief of Police Vance Rice, around 3:15 p.m. on Nov. 6, a female student called in to report a suspicious older male who approached her and asked her if she wanted to see “the oldest book in the world.” The student told police she thought the man might be selling Bibles but that he still seemed out of place. She said she would like for it to be checked out but that it was not an emergency.
After about an hour, according to MSU Chief Communications Officer, Sid Salter, the university received a call from a parent concerned that a Maroon Alert had not been issued about the attempted kidnapping on campus. Later that evening, a male student posted a tweet that said, “Y’all be extremely safe on MSU campus. There was an attempted kidnapping in broad daylight by steak n shake. White van with a Missouri tag. Three men tried to grab a girl. Ladies be extremely careful and men try to walk with them. RT and spread awareness.”
MSU PD had no reports at this time of an attempted kidnapping and responded on their twitter saying, “No, none, zero, attempted kidnappings have been reported to @msstatepd. We would advise if one was.” MSU PD tracked down the source of the information in the student’s tweet, and around 1 a.m. the next morning, the female who called in earlier gave the police a different story. The alleged victim said a man grabbed her when two other men came up and attempted to put her in a van that had pulled up. She said she fought, screamed and eventually got loose while several workers ran over to help her.
However, investigators reviewed security camera footage and determined the story to be false. Camera footage shows the female walking out of the parking lot and crossing the street near the Roberts Building. There is no sign of any of the events she described.
The alleged victim, Karli Stringer, a senior communication major, was arrested the following day for falsely reporting a crime and released shortly after on a signature bond. The Reflector reached out to Stringer for a comment but did not receive a reply.
Rice stressed the importance of only posting information on social media if you were a witness or victim of the altercation since secondhand information can be easily misunderstood and misconstrued.
“Never post anything on social media that you don't have first-hand information of,” Rice said.
Rice said disseminators of false information can be held criminally and civically liable if damages resulting from the false information can be proved.
Rice did not deny that incidents like the one reported happen, but he stressed the importance of immediately reporting such incidents.
“I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen it happen on university campuses, where a young lady does get abducted during the day. It can happen, but it didn’t happen here and it didn’t happen now but it can and if it does we need to know right away to try and locate these people and get them out of here as soon as possible,” Rice said.
Rice said the university received several calls from parents saying their daughters were afraid to leave their rooms because of the, now known to be false, attempted kidnapping. Salter said false reports of crime become a serious problem when they take up university resources and have the potential to incite panic.
“It’s just not a good idea for people to get creative with things that they report to police or post on social media that would have the effect of creating fear and panic among our student body, among our faculty and staff and among our adjacent townspeople here in Starkville,” Salter said.