Crime & Courts

He said the woman in the photo tried to abduct his son. Police say it never happened.

The Riley County Police Department said a Facebook post that claimed a woman had attempted to abduct a child at Walmart was unsubstantiated.
The Riley County Police Department said a Facebook post that claimed a woman had attempted to abduct a child at Walmart was unsubstantiated. RCPD/Facebook

A man whose Facebook post claimed that a woman had tried to abduct his son at a Kansas Walmart has apologized, police said.

Josh Hatley posted a photo of a woman and a van on his personal Facebook, where he wrote that the woman had tried to grab his son. The alleged incident happened at around 7 p.m. Saturday at Walmart when his wife, sister-in-law and two sons were looking at books while shopping.

"We live 9 miles away from I-70, a major drug and sex trafficking corridor," Hatley said in his post. "If someone snatches your child, they will probably be gone before anyone can do anything about it."

Riley County police said they were not notified of the alleged incident until they were sent the Facebook post by citizens. The Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office was alerted to the post by Walmart, RCPD said.

Hatley's post — which was shared more than 11,000 times — included a photo of the woman and her license plate, police said. But the attempted abduction never occurred and the claims were unsubstantiated after reviewing video, RCPD said.

After detectives shared security footage with Hatley, he apologized in a police release and said it was his sister-in-law who first claimed there was an attempted abduction.

"We have determined there was never any real danger to our sons, or the general public, and that our relative misrepresented what truly happened to us, and to management," Hatley said.

He said the woman in the photo of his Facebook post was "completely innocent."

"We have spoken with an attorney and learned that we are unable to pursue anything legally, and that the victim must do this," Hatley said. "If you choose to do so, we will fully support you in accumulating any evidence we have access to."

Police said people should call 911 when there is an emergency and advised people to use caution when posting to social media.

"If you ever experience a situation where you feel you or your child is in danger, please call 911 immediately," RCPD said in the release. "Child abductions and attempts should be reported directly to police. Sharing stories on social media that are not verified can cause undue hardship for the people labeled as suspects who may have done nothing wrong."

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