Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not an urban legend

I can always tell when some technophobe has recently discovered the existence of email: they forward a message to me that starts something like this:
"Please accept graciously my sorrow for troubling you, and allow me introducing to say I am the receiver of estate of the Deputy Director of Oil Resources...."
The newbie wants me to know that suspicious dealing of some sort is going on that he or she feels the police chief should be aware of. (Sigh.) I have bookmarked, and when I receive the latest scam or urban legend, I usually just fire the appropriate link back to the sender.

I started receiving several nearly-identical emails last night, forwarded from a variety of people. As of right now, nine different people have forwarded it to me asking if it is true. Here is the gist, which I have abridged somewhat due to its length:
"I just wanted to warn all of you about the recent assault that took place here in Lincoln....24 yr old female left her friends house and was involved in a car accident/assault. The car in front of her slammed on their brakes, causing her to hit that car and then the car behind hit her...The victim thought something was up and realized that she was blocked in...Somehow she got her car out and the other cars involved followed her recklessly. She called the friend...and said that someone was after her. She drove back to her friends house and the other cars followed her and pulled her out of the car. They started beating her on the driveway, when her friends came out of the house to help her...these women pulled guns on the friend ...they left with her purse. This victim was taken to the hospital and had emergency plastic surgery on her face...Her body is bruised and sore....the women were on line within an hour using her credit cards and bought a laptop and some items from foot locker...This isn't a hoax--this victim works for a friend of mine. Please be careful and send this on to others that you care about."
You will recognize some of the common signs of an urban legend: the unspecified location and date; the scary story of an attack by strangers; the statement, "This isn't a hoax"; and the victim identified as a friend of an acquaintance. Here's the problem: it's not an urban legend. The circulating email is actually a fairly accurate account of a Sunday morning robbery-assault that has been widely reported. It's a horrible crime--one of thousands of horrible crimes that occur in our City every year. This one was particularly heinous and will probably rank in the top 100 most despicable violent crimes of the year in my informal one-person poll.

What I found remarkable is that so many people who have received and forwarded the email are seemingly oblivious to two things: first, the news; second, the fact that even in Lincoln lots of horrid crime is committed by evil people.

Here is the response I am sending to everyone who forwards this story to me:

"Basically true--with perhaps a slight embellishment in that we do not know whether these women intentionally struck the victim's car as part of a planned robbery scheme, or whether they were involved in a "road rage" incident and just went berserk. Believe it or not, the suspects are not exactly being helpful in the investigation. We also cannot say that these women are members of an organized gang. None of them have prior gang intelligence information, and several are relatives. You can compare the email account you received with the various news stories:

Tom Casady
Chief of Police"


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that one underlying reason for that mail getting spammed around might be a perception that the local media and local government was trying to sweep the incident under the rug. The whole "why are some incidents treated as hate crimes, but not other similar incidents?" thing.

When info on a highly-charged event like this one isn't forthcoming and constantly updated in the local media (especially the newspaper), people tend to fill the info vacuum with conjecture and hunches.

In my eyes, LPD is right on the job with great efficiency, but the newspaper is a bit selective in what they report about it. They often take info that LPD releases and then ignore part of what you just told them.

GMP said...

Thank you so much for posting this, I was one of those who sent you the email, wondering if you were going to comment in your blog, so I could tell everyone where to look for the truth.

Anonymous said...

Chief, Do you think some of these people get some ideas from these e-mails? Could you pass on some information as to what a person should do if this happens to them. I have a feeling (hope) this was not because of a gang initiation, but obviously there are some psychos out there. Everyone needs to be careful, the girls obviously have a lot of maliciousness and, like you said, evil in them.


Anonymous said...

I have found that a startling number of people in Lincoln do not read or view the news. They seem to rely instead on gossip and rumor.

I've been involved in a variety of local issues, and have heard some pretty wild variations of what really happened regarding the particular issue at hand. Rather than looking up some facts, people just pass the story along, often adding an embellishment of their own.

Anonymous said...

I think that most drivers involved in road tantrums are not very meture and not very smart. I often have drivers get to close to my bumper and stuff like that. Then they get mad at me for going the speed limit and safe on the road. I just put on a little jonny cash in my tape player and ignoor those people and the music helps me relacks. I get those funny emails to and i just hit the delete butten. I dont no who sends some of them and they are some of them that are dirty and one time it gave my computer a viris, and stuff like that. But those fighting folks are really mean. I hope they dont get on my rear to close.
Hillbilly Mike

Tom Casady said...


It's always easy to play Monday morning quarterback, and I don't want to criticize the victim. She did what she could think of at the time, and never anticipated the violence that people are capable of. I'm sure she would do things differently in hindsight. But here's my advice:

1. Go home earlier. After-bar parties, in particular, are risky, as is driving after the bar-break crowd hits the road. Remember what your mom always said about "...after midnight?"

2. If you ever feel you are being followed or chased, drive safely (not wildly) to a very well lit place where many people are around. A hospital emergency entrance, a bustling convenience store, the police station, a fire station. Other people--and plenty of them--are the protective factor.

3. Stay in your car. Lock your doors.

4. Use your cell phone. Do not call your friends, your best buddy, your fiance, or your dad. You can call them later. We taught you who to call in Kindergarten, remember? 9 1 1.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mom said the only people out after midnight are the ones' that should'nt be.

What do I win?
Jim J

Anonymous said...

My mom always said "Nothing good ever happens after midnight."

Anonymous said...

My Mom said ARRRRRGH. She was a pirate.

Anonymous said...

To blend the topic of thug violence and piracy, recommend that when sailing their land yacht, one should post a watch in the crow's nest and always be well-prepared to repel boarders (within the law, as always), in case your sails fail to catch the wind and leave you unable to flee.

Anonymous said...

There's an old saying that I was always told when I started LPD and it was "The only people out after midnight are cops and crooks."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chief, for addressing the truthfulness of these emails - I received one today that had this addition in it: "The police say this a gang related assault and all they want is your credit cards and ID--their plan was to grab it from the victim in her car when she went for her insurance info. Since she fled and resisted, they severely beat her. The police think she may have been beaten even if she had just handed them her purse. The police won't elaborate much but they have told the victim that they think its all part of a bigger crime happening in Lincoln. "

Tom Casady said...

I have had a few inquiries about whether this is a hate crime. Hate crimes are defined as crimes committed because of a person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. The fact that the raceof the victim and perpetrators differ does not make the offense a hate crime.

We do not have evidence at that time that race motivated this crime. If such evidence is forthcoming as the investigation continues, we would classify the crime as a hate crime.

In Nebraska, hate crimes are not separate offenses, rather if a crime is prosecuted as a hate crime, there is an enhanced penalty.

We are not the least bit reluctant to call it the way we see it, when the evidence shows that race, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. motivated the crime.

Anonymous said...

As a related item, I believe that the younger suspect has also been charged with possession of/intent to deliver a hazardous drug (I assume meth or crack), docket call set for 4/30. I also believe that the fishwrap neglected to mention that charge.