A Washington man is in jail after setting off a hoax that left the community on edge and police scrambling for several hours Monday. Washington Police say Malik Waggoner, 23, Washington, is now being held without bond on a warrant for a second petition to revoke a suspended sentence and false informing. Police report the false informing charge was a result of events Waggoner unleashed with a 911 phone call where he told dispatchers that he was a woman being held at gunpoint in aisle 10 at Walmart.
“When we heard that we came running with lights and sirens,” said Washington Police Chief Todd Church. “You just never know. At that point we had to treat it like it was for real.”
But once police and sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they found nothing but your regular Walmart shoppers. They reviewed the store’s video and could not find anyone being held at gunpoint.
Police then shifted the investigation away from the store and into the community.
“We were still trying to be certain no one was in danger or being held at gunpoint somewhere else,” said Washington Police Detective Brandon Garland.
Officers began doing some research on the phone that was used and after several hours the trail led them to 1404 North St. and Waggoner. Police took him into custody without incident.
“We think he believed we were running surveillance on his house because we had a warrant on him,” said Garland. “He called in the woman being held at gunpoint as a decoy to try and evade law enforcement.”
In the end Waggoner was arrested on both the warrant and an additional charge of false informing.
His action though created quite a bit of panic and unease in the community. “There was all kinds of stuff going out there on Facebook and social media about stuff happening out at Walmart,” said Church. “No one was ever in any danger there.”
The hoax comes on the heels of a shooting earlier this year at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. It was the kind of thing that sends chills through police and the community and officers say that while they looked at possible additional charges against Waggoner, false informing appears to be the one that fit.
“This is not something we take lightly,” said Garland.