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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone June 8, 2022

Rumors of race-based threats to Walmart stores in San Bernardino not credible, police say

If Your Time is short

  • Police officials in San Bernardino and San Bernardino County say there are no credible threats about Walmart shootings there.

  • San Bernardino Police say they were monitoring threats nationwide, not specific to the city or county.

  • Copycat threats are common after mass shootings. There have been several recent threats made to other Walmart stores nationwide, but most have turned out to be false.

An Instagram post gave a stark warning to stay away from Walmart stores in California’s San Bernardino County, alleging that police there were warned that white supremacists were planning mass shootings.

The post comes soon after two horrific mass shootings, one at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, where 21 people, including 19 children, were killed, and another at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York, where 10 Black people died in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack.

But the threats are not credible, police in San Bernardino said, and there have been a number of similar threats nationwide in the past week.

"DO NOT GO TO WALMART," an Instagram post on June 4 began in all caps. It went on to say that San Bernardino County police received a tip that white supremacists have "made it clear they are shooting up all Walmarts and will kill Blacks and Mexicans."

The post has garnered more than 6,600 likes as of June 8. Multiple posts making similar claims can be found on Facebook.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post urged followers to share the news, then added "don’t know if it’s true or not, but just a heads up."

There are no credible threats to Walmart stores in San Bernardino, police there told PolitiFact on June 6.

Sgt. Equino Thomas, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino Police Department, said the department's intelligence unit had been monitoring reports of similar threats nationwide since last week, and found "there was no legitimacy to it." 

"This was not specific to San Bernardino or San Bernardino County," Thomas said.

Mara Rodriguez, a spokesperson with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, said the department’s intelligence team looked into this posting and found no credible threat.

"We continue to monitor any possible threats and work closely with other agencies to maintain the safety of the public," Rodriguez said.

There have been several reported threats about possible shootings at Walmart around the country in recent weeks that were false, and at least one that led to an arrest, according to news reports.

It’s not clear if the threats are widespread or connected in any way. The FBI, the Department of Justice and Walmart did not return our requests for comment.

On May 26, fact-checkers at the Associated Press reported there were false claims on social media about two armed men who threatened to kill Black people at a Walmart in Bowie, Maryland, before they were stopped by undercover agents. The Bowie Police Department debunked the claims in a Twitter thread, and a Walmart spokesperson also told the AP they were false.

Police in Springfield Township in northeast Ohio said in a Facebook post on June 2 that they were investigating a threat made about a random shooting at a Walmart there, but said "we do not feel that the threat is credible."

In Wooster, Ohio, police said on June 2 they arrested a man they say made a threat on social media with "what appeared to be a firearm." They did not specify what the threat was, but said rumors that spread online of an active shooter at a Walmart store were false.

Police in Lancaster, South Carolina, said on June 3 that someone called in a threat to a Walmart store there. Officers responded, but there was no incident. There is no suspect, and the case is under investigation, they said. Police in nearby Rock Hill also responded to a Walmart store there after reports that the suspect may be in that area, but there was also no incident.

In Durant, Oklahoma, police said they arrested a man on June 2 after receiving a tip that he threatened to shoot up a Walmart there, according to KXII-12.

In Amherst, New York, a Walmart store temporarily closed on May 16 — two days after the Buffalo attack — when an online threat was made to kill Black shoppers, according to the Buffalo News. A Sam’s Club and two Tops stores in the area were also threatened. No arrests have been announced by police in that case, though one man was arrested in separate shooting threats at a pizzeria and brewery.

It’s not the first time Walmart stores have been the subject of threats after a mass shooting. In the days after an attack on Aug. 3, 2019, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 people dead, CNN reported several threats were made at Walmart stores around the country.

Copycat threats are not uncommon after such events. In Uvalde, more than a dozen school districts across Texas reported receiving threats after the Robb Elementary School attack, Axios reported.

After a mass shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018, there were more than 700 copycat threats at schools nationwide within a few weeks, according to the Educator’s School Safety Network

"In the aftermath of a school shooting tragedy, school shootings are front of mind for everyone, and people may be more inclined to report suspected threats of violence, thus increasing the number of threats," said James Densley, a professor and department chair in the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota.

Densely said that Michigan’s online threat reporting system received more than 3,000 tips after a school shooting in Oxford left four students dead and seven others injured in 2021. Hundreds of school districts across the country also received threats. Many were not credible, Densely said, but schools were often closed as a precaution.

Even if threats are eventually deemed not credible, law enforcement agencies must take them seriously. The Department of Homeland Security on June 7 issued a new terrorism threat bulletin, mentioning the racially motivated attack in Buffalo as an example of "the dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment."

The department urged Americans to report threats of violence, including online threats, to local police.

Our ruling

Social media posts warned shoppers to stay away from Walmart stores in San Bernardino because police there were warned of threats by white supremacists to kill Black and Mexican shoppers.

But police officials in the city and county said there were no credible threats, and a spokesperson for the San Bernardino Police Department said they were monitoring reports of threats nationwide, not specific to the city or county. 

Nationally, there have been a few cases of threats being made to Walmart stores, but most were not deemed credible. We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Sgt. Equino Thomas, spokesperson with the San Bernardino Police Department, phone interview, June 6, 2022

Mara Rodriguez, spokesperson with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, emailed statement, June 6, 2022

James Densley, professor and department chair in the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, email interview, June 7, 2022

WOIO-19 News, "Police warn of false social media threats targeting 2 Northeast Ohio Walmart locations," June 3, 2022

Springfield Township Police Department, Facebook post, June 2, 2022

Wooster Police Department, Facebook post, June 2, 2022

Lancaster Police Department, Facebook post, June 3, 2022

Bowie Police Department, Twitter thread, May 25, 2022

Associated Press, "Claims of Walmart threat in Maryland are false," May 26, 2022

KXII-12, "Durant Police: Man arrested after threatening to shoot up Walmart," June 3, 2022

Amherst Police Department, Facebook post, May 16, 2022

The Buffalo News, "One man arrested, Walmart store temporarily closes as officials warn of prosecutions against those making 'terroristic threats'" May 16, 2022

CNN, "At least eight Walmart stores were the subject of threats over the past week," Aug. 11, 2019

El Paso Times, "Walmart mass shooting trial: Prosecution wants 2023 start, defense wants a delay to 2025," Feb. 17, 2022

Axios, "Uvalde copycat threats hit schools across Texas," May 31, 2022

Time, "There Have Been 756 Copycat Threats Against Schools Since the Parkland Shooting, Group Says," March 8, 2018

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Summary of Terrorism Threat to the United States," June 7, 2022

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Rumors of race-based threats to Walmart stores in San Bernardino not credible, police say

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