A chase involving law enforcement Tuesday evening in New Braunfels fed hundreds of erroneous reports of an active shooter loose in the city.
“People began messaging our Facebook page wondering if there was an active shooter,” David Ferguson, New Braunfels Police Department communications coordinator, said of the incident, where NBPD was assisting Comal County Sheriff’s Office in tracking down suspects who had fled a vehicle during a traffic stop around 7:30 p.m.
“Despite what is being spread on several social media posts, NBPD is NOT currently working an active shooter scenario in the area behind the Marketplace Shopping Center,” the response said. “NBPD is currently assisting another agency following a traffic stop where the suspect fled on foot.”
The post said Department of Public Safety helicopters and K-9 units also worked in the search, which ended without an arrest just before midnight.
“As of this statement, no one is in any immediate danger and if there is a need for concern, we would certainly notify residents immediately, either in person or with the reverse 9-1-1 system,” NBPD’s post said. “If and when we can release more information, we certainly will do so. We hope that helps alleviate some of the concerns.”
NBPD’s post concluded by repeating CCSO’s Facebook statement, posted a half-hour earlier.
“CCSO, NBPD, DPS Helicopter, along with K-9 units are currently searching for two Hispanic males that fled on foot during a traffic stop in the area Elliot Knox and IHOP in New Braunfels,” it said. “Despite rumors this is NOT an active shooter incident. The Hispanic males appear to be in their teens. One is wearing a black shirt with blue jean shorts, and the other is wearing a white tank top and blue jean shorts. We will update when and if we have more information to release.”
Both posts received nearly 1,000 comments and shares within two hours. However, many shares were stripped of facts and reposted on other Facebook sites – leading Ferguson and Smith to release cautionary statements from their departments on Wednesday.
“False and misleading posts on social media can cause real problems,” CCSO’s statement said. “We were notified of online rumors regarding an active shooter situation near the IHOP off Business 35 in New Braunfels. That was not the case. When a social media post has over 300 comments and shared hundreds of times with misleading and incorrect information, it gives people a false sense of danger.
“We will always notify our community if we believe there is ever a reason to be concerned. We encourage anyone who is not signed up for the reverse 9-1-1 system to please do so (through) the Regional Emergency Alert Network.”
New Braunfels Police Department officials echoed the sentiment.
“This incident, once again, highlights why NBPD cautions residents about reading and sharing posts made on social media sites that do not come from official law enforcement sources,” the department said. “While we cannot post about every crime that happens, NBPD routinely posts information about ongoing investigations, criminal activity and community alerts.”
NBPD’s post asks residents to be patient as incidents are investigated and to visit the department’s social media outlets for updates.
“Furthermore, online groups like Moms of New Braunfels, HOA or subdivision groups, and other social media pages definitely have a role to play in helping our community communicate with each other,” it continued. “But when false and misleading information is posted and then spread as it was during this incident, it can become outright dangerous. It poses a real threat to the safety of residents and to the officers that are responding. And everyone should keep that in mind before posting or sharing any information. . .
“If a threat is deemed credible in any way, the community would be notified immediately, with steps taken to protect their safety.”