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Residents receive hoax text messages of planned gang shootings at Wal-Mart

Rumors were a part of a nationwide prank targeting cell phones

Several Pleasanton residents received a scare today as text messages circulated about possible gang-initiation shootings at local Wal-Mart stores, but authorities say the rumors are just part of a nationwide hoax.

Students at Chabot College in Hayward received text messages warning of shootings about to take place at Wal-Mart stores throughout the Bay Area, according to Ruben Pola, the director of campus safety and security.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Pleasanton, Hayward and San Leandro police departments, reported receiving calls from residents who had received the message.

Pleasanton police Lt. Tom Fenner said authorities are telling people to disregard the messages.

"There's been a lot of these texts floating around...from what we could find out, it was a hoax and it's still a hoax. There's no credible

evidence or validity to it," Fenner said. "Unfortunately some people take it very seriously, and it's not fair to Wal-Mart or anyone shopping there."

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said this afternoon she had heard the rumor.

"We've been made aware of the messages being circulated and are working with local authorities to enhance the security efforts at our stores.

"While we take these types of situations seriously, we regard this as being only a rumor, much like similar rumors that have circulated via e-mail in previous years," Cheeseman said.

Snopes, a Web site that catalogs urban legends, says that rumors of impending killings at Wal-Marts first began surfacing via e-mail in 2005.

The Web site states that the rumors have resurfaced in the past week in at least 32 states "claiming that a gang initiation involving the killing of a white woman (or white women and men and children, or three men and three women) would be taking place at a Wal-Mart."

However, "no such murders or attempted murders were reported, no gang members were arrested, and no one spoke up about having planned to participate in the supposed plot," the Snopes posting states.

The Snopes site can be accessed at http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/walmart.asp.

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