Michael Tabman

When Being a Jerk is a Crime ~ The Walmart Bomb Threats

In Crime and Security on August 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Walmart stores in the Kansas City area have been receiving bomb threats during the past week.  As of yesterday, about a dozen stores had been victimized.  Fortunately, all the calls were hoaxes, as most bomb threats are.  These threats came on the heels of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, followed by a disgruntled employee in Maryland threatening his employer and invoking the name of “The Joker.”  The timing of these Walmart threats does not appear random.  We are understandably on edge; imposing panic is easy.  To our credit, the ensuing evacuations of the affected Walmart stores were without incident.

 During this time, I spoke with three major news stations in Kansas City.  Reflecting the concern of our area residents, the questions were the same – Who, why and what should we do?  What are the authorities doing?

When asked who would do this, my answer was simple – just some disaffected jerk that enjoys watching the fear and disruption he can cause from the safety of an anonymous telephone call.  He knows there will be evacuations, and he knows that the media will cover this story.  That is what he wants.  Is he a disgruntled employee?  That would seem a logical assumption, but in this case, I do not get that feeling.  I believe that this is a young man, living in the Kansas City area who recently experienced some frustration (real or imagined) that stripped him of a sense of power and control.  Creating fear and panic is his way of getting that power back.  Walmart may figure in to that frustration or he may have reasoned that targeting a major chain as Walmart would get the attention he sought.  There are other actions he could have taken if he had more nefarious intent, but I do not want to give him any ideas.

Most major chains, shopping centers, office buildings, and other public venues are prepared for a bomb threat.  They should have a bomb threat checklist for anyone who may get that call.  The decision to evacuate will rest with the management of that venue.  As shoppers, customers or visitors to public places, we can do our part.  Be alert for suspicious activity.  Even a shopper has a profile – you know how somebody acts when they are shopping.  If a person appears more interested in the facility, such as the lay-out, security cameras, ingress/egress, closets or utility rooms, than they are of the merchandise, there may be a problem.  Do not challenge that person, but approach an employee or police officer; they know what to do.  The same rule applies if you see an unattended package.  Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.  My motto: vigilance sans paranoia.

Finally, the question was about what the police are doing.  The police and FBI are tracking these calls, and they will find the perpetrator.  Recent news reports indicated that the calls had been traced to a specific number in a certain location.  If that is true, I do not see the value of law enforcement showing their hand at this point.  Federal laws and most state laws prohibit these kinds of threats.  While there may have been no actual bomb, no casualties and no damage, a bomb threat creates panic, disruption and may lead to our not responding to a bona fide threat.  When you call in a bomb threat under the cloak of anonymity, you are a coward and a jerk, and there is a law against that.




  1. Thanks for your input. I think the title reflects my thoughts.


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