It turns out a social media rumor about a sexual predator at a Detroit Lakes Walmart isn't true.
Nonetheless, it was circulated widely enough that the local chief of police got wind of it and felt compelled to step in.
In a Facebook announcement, Chief Steve Todd addressed the social media post that had started the apparent hoax, which said that a man had been seen at the local Walmart "taking photographs with his phone up a young girl's skirt as she bent down to pick out groceries."
The author of the post, Todd says, also claimed that they "apprehended the man and held onto the man's phone until Walmart Loss Prevention and the Police arrived" and arrested him.
However, a thorough investigation by Todd found no evidence that such an incident had taken place; he says he tried reaching out to the person who had made the post (to no avail), and even checked his department's call records only to come up empty-handed.
"I was working all day today and did not hear anything like this being dispatched," Todd says. "The described incident did not occur at the Detroit Lakes Walmart today."
He did note that a local arrest — which did involve child pornography and happened to occur the same day as the purported Walmart arrest — seems to have been conflated with the hoax, but Todd made clear that "there is no relation between this individual and the claimed Walmart incident."
The arrest in question did indeed happen in Detroit Lakes, but the suspect was taken into custody at his home, where agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension executed a search warrant.
The case began with "several tips" that were received by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a news release says.
The release — issued by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety — also makes clear that this had no relation to the Detroit Lakes Walmart story.