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Social message had Guamanians on edge

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A viral text message that circulated at the start of the three-day weekend put many residents on high alert. That's because the message implied a shooting would take place at an unspecified bar. The viral text was followed by a video of a man brandishing a gun in a car being driven through Tumon.   

Whether the cases are related is under investigation.   

If you were out enjoying the nightlife over the weekend, you may have noticed more law enforcement on the streets. GPD spokesman Officer AJ Balajadia said, "Around 7 or so we started receiving calls regarding things that were going out on social media regarding WhatsApp and Facebook of a possible threat or a partial threat of individual or individuals planning on shooting up a nightclub or a bar."     

It was early Friday evening this text message went viral: "If anyone is going out to the bars please do not. Someone just called GPD threatening to shoot up the bars."

But was there actually a threat to the community?

Officer Balajadia debunks facts from fiction: what has been confirmed is that the threat was received by GPD on Wednesday, not Friday. It wasn't until Friday however, the text message garnered momentum and found its way into countless WhatsApp chat groups. "With social media, sometimes a small little thing can be blown up into something big - especially when people start adding to it," he stated. "In this particular case it kind of spun out of control and went viral to a point where people were just adding to it, then they started identifying locations and people."

Due to overwhelming community concern, GPD activated two detectives and SWAT personnel. The Criminal Justice Strike Force also remained on standby while patrols made checks of the bars and nightclubs within their areas, in addition to interviews with potential suspects that were conducted throughout the night. "What our guys did is we checked to verify some of the individuals who were identified for having interest in this. And they woke people up at 2 o'clock in the morning and questioned individuals. It turned out that none of them were directly involved or claimed to be not directly involved with this," he added.

As for the video that circulated shortly after, it has yet to be determined whether the cases are related. "There is a video but we have no reason to believe it's connected. People are associating that video and connecting it themselves," he said.

While the investigation continues, GPD warns: there will be consequences for those who take to social media to threaten the community. Balajadia said, "We'd like to remind the public that whenever there's a threat of this magnitude that is made on social media, WhatsApp is included, the FBI gets involved. The FBI could look into this case and track down these individuals. So a warning to these people that think they can use social media to make any threats they want to and not be held accountable, they are sorely mistaken."

Should you have any information about this case, you are urged to send a text message to 486-HELP or call Guam Crimestoppers at 477-HELP (4357).

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