STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Social media can spread information faster than ever, but it can also spread misinformation, too. That's what happened over an arrest in Statesboro, Monday night.
Police chased an unarmed man into the Walmart on Northside Drive East, but the story that hit Facebook sent people into a frenzy around town and beyond.
Statesboro Police say they were watching the two suspects outside of the Walmart until they tried to arrest them. One of them ran into the store. Police caught up with the unarmed suspect inside and ordered him to stop, then arrested him without incident. Afterward, two shoppers took to Facebook to describe it as an active shooter inside the store. One of their posts was shared 1,000 times within an hour. When police heard about the post, they shared their account of what happened.
Police responded to the Walmart Supercenter around 8:10 p.m., regarding drug activity. One suspect, 38-year-old Marcus Austin of Metter, attempted to run away but was quickly stopped and taken into custody. Austin was charged with sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and obstructing or hindering a law enforcement officer. The other suspect, 42-year-old Bobby Wayne Daw of Statesboro, was charged with possession of cocaine.
Both suspects were taken to the Bulloch County Jail to await further court action.
"I see this as a case where social media is a double-edged sword. It can spread something that fans the flames where there's nothing really behind it, but it also allowed us to get the word out that this is just not factual," said Chief Mike Broadhead, Statesboro PD.
As you can imagine, this created panic among plenty of people, from the loved ones of store employees to the parents of university students all over the state.
Chief Broadhead urges people, whether you live in Statesboro or someplace else, if you see some kind of claim on social media, try to get the facts before you spread something that may not be true.