By Erica Morse
Editor-in-Chief, Victims News Online
Updated 8:05 p.m., Feb. 4, 2013
Updated 10:15 p.m., Feb. 4, 2013
(VNO) — As we first reported this afternoon, a Facebook page was created yesterday containing allegations of child abuse, and featuring a name, description, license plate number and photo of the man who some claim is behind it. By early this afternoon, the article had gone viral, with thousands flocking to the page to ask questions about the allegations.
Just a few minutes ago, the Walker, LA, Police Department contacted Victims News Online, indicating they have released a statement regarding the matter, in an effort to answer questions posed by numerous phone calls and e-mails to the department:
Many people have inquired about the content of a Facebook page created over the weekend alleging that a young child was the subject of an act of child abuse. The person who created the Facebook page, who is obviously neither the parent nor guardian of the alleged victim, included among the information posted the name and age of the alleged victim and photo’s that purport to show injuries to the alleged victim. In the Facebook post, readers are told that the Walker Police Department is working on the case. The Facebook post goes on to identify the alleged suspect, including the alleged suspect’s name, photograph, vehicle description, and possible location and/or destination. The Facebook posts ask that readers “Share” the Facebook postings and urge the public to help law enforcement to locate the alleged suspect. In another post, the Facebook page creator explains that the alleged suspect plans to surrender to authorities, and says that the Page creator has urged the mother of the alleged victim to “come here and answer everyone’s questions” (presumably on the Facebook page) and to provide other information including “contact info for the police and the police report number.”
Understandably, the story has created concern among many who saw it. It has also prompted a significant number of inquiries to the Walker Police Department, both by telephone and through posts to our Facebook Page. Many such inquiries simply want to know if the information is true, while others want more details. At least one post expresses concern that the alleged suspect’s life is now in danger because of the people looking for the suspect.
As many of you are aware, law enforcement agencies are prohibited from releasing the names of minor children who have been the subject of child abuse or any other crimes. Law enforcement agencies would certainly not publish photographs of an injured child. Ordinarily, when asked to comment about an incident in which a child has been injured, abused or is the victim of a crime, law enforcement agencies are able to acknowledge that an investigation is underway and explain that because the alleged victim is a minor, the child’s name and other personal information cannot be made public. In addition, details of such an alleged crime would not be released in order to avoid compromising the investigation.
With respect to an incident like the one described on the referenced Facebook page, the extensive details, photographs and other information included on the Facebook page which purport to be true are such that any law enforcement agency handling such a case could not comment on such information, confirm than an investigation is underway or even acknowledge that such an incident has been alleged to have occurred. Such comments or acknowledgments could confirm all or a part of the information posted and thereby violate the protections afforded to minor children under the law. Equally problematic is the possibility that an investigation into such allegations could be compromised and the successful prosecution of an alleged suspect could be rendered difficult or impossible.
Thank you all for your questions and concerns.
Victims News Online received dozens of e-mails and responses to the earlier article, some from readers who claimed to have spoken directly with the Walker PD regarding this situation. However, the Police Department asserts in its release that they will not discuss any ongoing investigation, and will not confirm whether this situation is being investigated.
Additional concerns are mounting as the page continues to garner “likes” tonight by the thousands. As of 10:00 p.m. this evening, more than 6,000 people were fans of the page, with various discussions taking place about causing physical harm to the alleged abuser. Victims News Online continues to receive hourly reports from concerned readers who have reported the page to Facebook, but it still remains active.