Police: Mass shooting rumor kept people from Rumford fireworks

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RUMFORD — A rumor that a mass shooting would take place at the River Valley Fourth of July celebration on July 4 drove up to 100 people from the Hosmer Field complex before the fireworks display, police said July 5.
Sgt. Tracey Higley said that on the night of July 3 “an officer from another jurisdiction felt that he had observed some suspicious activity of some Muslim-looking folks in a pizza shop, with only three of them buying four pizzas, then asking if there was any big events in the area.”
Rumford police did not identify the officer, whom they said was known to them, or the place of the suspicious activity.
The unidentified officer communicated the information over police radio channels, Higley said.
“Now, that’s OK, if that stays within the law enforcement community, because we need to be on heightened alert,” he said.
At 5:30 p.m. on July 4, Higley said, Rumford police “received a phone call from a citizen that we’re familiar with saying, ‘I heard from my friend who’s related to a cop that there’s going to be a mass shooting at Hosmer Field, or at the fireworks.'”
Higley added, “We would not expect that any true law enforcement officer would share this information without sharing it within the law enforcement community. We told that person that we had not gotten any credible information, that we had not heard from anybody.”
Higley said the caller was asked which police officer was saying this. “They never said who the police officer was and they never called back,” he said.
“So we don’t know if this officer from another agency said what they felt they observed and it got blown out of proportion, or if someone came up with something,” Higley said. “But then, after I went home, because I ended my shift at 6 o’clock, my stepson came and said, ‘I’ve got to show you this text.'”
Higley said the text was from school-age kids to other school-age kids that initially came from the mother of the same person who called police.
The text read: “My mom told me a police officer said there’s going to be a shooting at the fireworks.”
“So because that was going out (over social media), I made sure that officers spread it throughout the law enforcement community, and the decision was made to ask other officers to come in for their coverage,” Higley said.
“There was absolutely, at no point, anything substantiated,” he said. “There was nothing given to us directly, nor anyone that had any information could corroborate or tell us where the information originated from.”
Higley said the officers at the event were advised “to let people know that we had no credible threat. It was a very unfortunate rumor.”
He said he had heard that the fireworks display drew “a much smaller crowd and a lot of that was because of the threat, and that maybe there was an exodus of maybe a hundred people specifically because of that. So somebody really ruined it for a lot of others, and then you put people on edge.”
bfarrin@sunmediagroup.net

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