In response to widespread social media reports of several attempted kidnappings in recent days, the Hermiston Police Department has issued a press release stating that it has investigated various reports and found no credible evidence of efforts to abduct young children in the Hermiston area.
“Social media can be an incredible tool for law enforcement to utilize,” said Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston. “Unfortunately it can also lead to misinformation.”
Postings on numerous Facebook pages over the past couple of days contain references to men trying to lure young children out of Wal-Mart. According to the HPD, investigations into several reports were conducted. Edmiston said nothing in their investigations led them to conclude that an abduction of a child was attempted.
On June 15, HPD looked into an incident at Wal-Mart.
“The initial report was regarding a suspicious male,” Edmiston said. The department’s investigation included viewing in-store surveillance video. Edmiston said the video shows an African American male saying something to a child and pointing in a direction before walking away from the child.
“The entire encounter was approximately three seconds,” Edmiston said.
A second incident, also at Wal-Mart, occurred on June 17. Edmiston said a woman reported that she had her 9-month-old child in the main section of a shopping cart. She reported that another woman attempted to walk away with the cart while the child was in it. When the woman was confronted, she apologized for having the wrong cart. Edmiston said extensive video footage was reviewed but the reported interaction between the two women was not captured on video.
“It is not known if the female (described as white with dirty blonde hair in her 40s) even knew there was a child in the cart,” the police chief said.
A third incident reportedly took place earlier today on the 200 block of S.W. Butte Drive. Edmiston said the department received a report of a 12-year-old girl who was walking home when a white van with tinted windows with bars in the back driven by an African American male stopped. The report said the man got out of the van and began walking toward the girl. The girl then ran to a neighbor’s residence. Edmiston said there was no interaction between the man and the girl.
Edmiston said the department does not believe any of the incidents were actual attempted abductions.
“If we had pertinent information that led us to believe abductions were attempted, we would at a minimum issue a public alert seeking assistance,” he said. “We are not at that point based on what has been reported to us.”