Police department dismisses false info

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On Wednesday, Sumter Police Department dispelled false information regarding possible gang initiations after an employee gave wrong information during a non-emergency call on Tuesday.

The situation started after the police department was called because a boy was seen walking along Barnett Drive crying and screaming about 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to social media posts, the employee who answered the phone told the caller not to follow the boy because he could be part of a gang initiation to lure people to danger.

In a Facebook post on Sumter Police Department's page, Chief Russell Roark III wrote that the employee who answered the phone was not a police officer nor a telecommunications operator and gave inaccurate information.

He wrote officers later located the boy, who had been upset because of a family issue. "The boy was not harmed in any way and was not acting with malicious intent," he wrote.

Roark also wrote that the department will review its policies and procedures to improve how non-emergency calls are handled by employees.

Kristin Hallal, the woman who made the call, said she and two coworkers were at work when they saw a boy who looked to be about 12 years old walking down the street crying and screaming about 10 a.m.

She said her two coworkers went outside to check with the boy, but he did not respond to them.

Everyone was worried because the boy did not respond when asked if he was OK, and he is at an age where he should be in school at that time of day, she said.

When Hallal called the police department to have someone check on the boy, she was told that her coworkers should go back inside.

Hallal said Tuesday was the first time she had heard anything like that. Everyone's first concern was for the boy, she said. No one thinks that he would harm anyone, she said.

An officer was sent to check the area and later spoke with Hallal and her coworkers. The officer had not heard about that kind of gang initiation happening in Sumter either, Hallal said.

Although many people have been a little nervous because of the incorrect information, Hallal said she hopes people will not be discouraged from helping others in need.

Just be vigilant and safe, she said.