August 12, 2020

Police: Social media-fueled hysteria turns men in white van searching for pot into ‘kidnappers’

Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said social media embellishment is responsible for a false report of men in a van on Thursday afternoon attempting to abduct a young woman in Natchez.

“There is no truth to it,” Armstrong said.

He said a young woman who was in her car, parked in the lot of a dollar store on U.S. 61 South, became hysterical when a white van pulled up near her and a man got out and tapped on her driver’s side window.

“At that point, she became hysterical. She didn’t roll down the window. She never heard the man say anything. She immediately called us,” Armstrong said.

Police officers responded immediately and were able to find the van in question and officers searched the van and the two men in it.

“It was two men from Kentucky who were passing through this area in a van that was absolutely filled with scrap iron,” Armstrong said. “They couldn’t have gotten another person in that van if they had wanted to.”

He said the men were detained and told officers they were seeking information about where to purchase marijuana here.

“We did find evidence that they had been smoking marijuana in the van and had run out,” Armstrong said.

“The young woman did the right thing in calling us. She did the right thing in being aware of her surroundings. But she told us she never heard them say anything to her at all or attempt to open her window or door. She simply reacted and called us, which is exactly what she should have done.”

Social media has been rife with false reports of men in vans at various locations trying to abduct young men and women.

“I read one post about how we found blood dripping out of the van,” and how it was boarded up and couldn’t be opened from the inside, he said. “None of that is true. That van was filled to the brim with scrap and things that could be sold.

“The young lady did the right thing in calling the police. We were fortunate enough to find the van in question, but there is no evidence they were trying to abduct anyone,” Armstrong said.