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Police try to calm public fears after Facebook hoax

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Wisconsin police agencies report that a community alert, which went viral via social media, Wednesday, September 25, 2013, was not issued by any bonafide police department. Fraudulent, printed posters were distributed to various schools and transportation companies throughout the area causing a storm of negative comments across various social medias including Facebook and Twitter.

The bogus notice stated that Colton Syverson, 25, of Walworth was recently released from the Walworth County Jail and had confessed to corrections officers that he intended to kill children and himself at a school in order to gain notoriety.

Metro News wire service has confirmed that the fraudulent posters were indeed plainly visible in the offices of Dousman Transport Company in Delavan, Dousman, Lake Geneva and Union Grove in the bus terminus. The bus company refused to comment on the situation at the time of this report.

See FOX6 News coverage of Syverson Facebook scam

Several parents took the Facebook post seriously and kept children home from school Thursday, September 26, 2013. The Delavan Police Department released the following statement: “The flier that you have all seen or heard about is not a law enforcement flier Had it been a legitimate...posting, you would have seen the logo from the department that was originally circulating it and most likely a phone number for the public with any questions that they may have about it. The origin is unknown and the comments that you have seen on the flier have been unsubstantiated by law enforcement.”

An interdepartmental e-mail obtained by Metro News from Walworth County Sheriff Capt. Scott McClory to deputies stated, “He [Colton Syverson] was released from our jail after serving his sentence on/about 8-13-13. While he was in our facility, he did make alleged threats, including wanting to commit suicide at a school and convincing the kids to commit suicide with him.”

According to McClory, the threats were assessed by professionals at Walworth County Health and Human Services and were “deemed not credible.” Syverson has had no contact with police since his release and currently is not wanted for any crimes at this time. Syverson has a previous arrest record for disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property, resisting arrest and writing threatening or obscene computer messages. His last known address was a post office box in Walworth.

Delavan Police along with other law enforcement agencies went to various schools in the area as well as Dousman Bus depots explaining the situation and answering questions in an effort to avoid an unnecessary panic. Yet, many people lashed out at the Delavan Police Department and other agencies via their Facebook page even after departments released official statements with thoughts that the police weren't taking Syverson's threats serious enough or that they weren't doing enough to handle the situation.

“Police departments have their hands full today with all the nonsense that occurs on social media websites,” according to Stephanie Nicole, CEO of Metro News Network. “Schools are evacuated for several hours at a time due to bomb threats. A teacher's conduct is brought into question by fake complaints registered by students who weren't happy with a grade they received. And now this situation in Wisconsin where many children missed a day of school because of an unfounded rumor that was started by either a vigilante or someone with an obvious 'ax to grind.' There are no winners in situations like this.”

One clearly frustrated Facebook parent's comment insinuated that “home schooling would be more preferable than to live in fear.” But statistically, that would only solve the problem for a small group of people and sadly home schooling can prove emotionally devastating for children that would truly benefit from interacting with their peers.

It is alleged that Colton Syverson has social issues and may be labeled as a “loner” due to harsh circumstances he encountered in his past. He may have made past comments in an effort to gain much needed attention from people who rejected him and have considered him an outcast dating back to his high school years. Metro News attempted to reach Syverson for comment, but calls and e-mails were not returned by the time of this report.