Brownsville police address false threats spread online

Brownsville Police Department Public Information Officer Melissa Gonzalez speaks to the Brownsville Herald over false accusations of a mass shooting yesterday in Brownsville that spread through social media.

A false threat of a mass casualty event in Brownsville became viral on social media posts Wednesday.

The post, which was virally shared on both Facebook and Twitter, stated that there was going to be a mass casualty event in a public place in the city, but according to the Brownsville Police Department, those claims were fictitious.

The police department issued a public service announcement that same day, saying the threat shared online was fabricated.

On Thursday, Brownsville Police Department Public Information Officer Melissa Gonzalez said there were numerous calls made to the police department on Wednesday regarding threats of the fabricated mass casualty event in Brownsville.

“People called saying that they were receiving phone calls and text messages saying that there was going to be this mass casualty event here in Brownsville,” Gonzalez said.  “This is a fabricated story that spread to social media; there was no active mass casualty event. Due to the concern and the confusion that it caused the community, police resources have been strategically placed within our city.”

Gonzalez said the safety of the community is the top priority for the department.

“The Brownsville Police Department does not take these threats, or such threats, lightly, so, we take them seriously,” Gonzalez said in an interview with The Brownsville Herald. “The safety of our community is our utmost priority and we continue to look into the original source of the false information and we still remain vigilant, as it is part of our routine police duties. It is part of our routine duties to remain vigilant and keep the community safe.”

Gonzalez said social media is not an official means to file a police report and community should call directly to inform the police if they see something alarming.

“If they see posts like these on social media, the Brownsville Police Department asks the public to not assume that law enforcement is aware of what’s going on in social media, and that they keep in mind that social media is not an official means to file a police report,” Gonzalez said.

Emergencies can be reported by calling 911, or residents can call the Brownsville Police Department’s non-emergency line at (956) 548-7000 “and explain what’s going on,” she said.

Gonzalez encourages residents to follow the police department’s social media accounts so they can get official information.

“If they could follow us, we have our Facebook page, we have Instagram and we have Twitter,” Gonzalez said. “If they can follow us on any of those social media platforms, they will probably be able to get their information, official information from any one of our pages.”