Urban Legend or part of Spokane anti-gang campaign?
Posted by Arroyoribera on October 6, 2007
Periodically, over the last several years, a bogus story about gangs begins to make the rounds by e-mail in one part of the country or another.
Somewhere along the way in summer 2007, about the time the scandal-ridden Spokane Police Department was stepping up its gang propaganda and inviting the COPS TV crew to follow them around town, someone decided to circulate this bogus email in Spokane.
In an effort to give it greater credibility, this version was augmented with a few local facts, for example, stating that one of the victims was Bruce, “the painter contractor for Condron Homes” and including references to streets such as Mission, Bowdish, and Sprague.
Late this summer the phony email was sent out by — among others — the Spokane Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was also sent out to a number of conservative Christian Churches and members of the Hispanic community in Spokane.
The e-mail — obviously untrue to anyone with experience with “urban legend” emails — is a fabricated tale of gang initiation.
Let me start by letting you know from my own experience some of the characteristics of these Urban Legend emails:
1) Fonts of different sizes and colors.
2) Readers are told that it is “real” and asked to “Please share” with everyone and anyone.
3) The writing style is often very formal.
What can you do when you receive a suspicious email of this nature?
Go to a website like www.snopes.com or http://urbanlegends.about.com and type a sentence from the email into the search engine. If that doesn’t provide you with information, summarize it yourself, for ex., “gangs flashing headlights”. In the case of this e-mail you get the following: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/lightsout.asp
Following is the e-mail sent in Spokane by Celia Sogge, followed by Tom Lutey’s Spokesman-Review article on the matter. The http://www.snopes.com link above includes references to multiple media articles debunking the myth.
From: Celia Sogge [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 12:31 PM
Subject: Gang Initiation in Spokane Valley
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:03 AM
Subject: Gang Initiation in Spokane Valley, very REAL!!!!!
This is terrible. Please share with anyone you know who lives in Spokane.
This is very real. It happened on the corner of Mission and Bowdish Saturday night. Bruce is the painter contractor for Condron Homes.
Pass the word.
Bruce and I came very close to being beaten and/or
killed Saturday night. We were on our way home from
the boat when a car coming at us did not have on
their head lights. I, of course, blink my lights at
them to let them know they needed to turn on their
head lights. As they passed us they flipped a
U-turn and were driving erratically behind us
flashing their flashers. We locked the car doors,
of course. But we had to stop at a red light.
Nobody else was around. It was dark. They jumped
out of their car and ran towards us. Bruce shouted
“Go! Go” I went, went. They jumped back in to their
car and were so close to us I’m surprised they
didn’t bump us. We were very scared to say the
least. At that point we used our cell to call 911.
Bruce hardly had told the gal what was happening and
she said they were on there way. She didn’t ask any
question like they usually do. (Later. we thought
that was very strange). I turned down Sprague and
went directly to the Police Station
IT WAS CLOSED! The car went straight up Bowdish.
We figured with Sprague being busy and well lit
they decided not to follow. Turns out we were
We found out this is some sick gang initiation.
They drive around with their lights off. They
‘choose’ the people who blinks their lights at them
to beat/shoot/kill in order to get into the gang.
Great sport, eh? Had we gone home we more than
likely would be dead or very badly hurt now.
So do not blink your lights at ANYONE! And if
someone behind you is driving with their lights off,
stay in a well lit area with traffic and call 911 if
they keep following you. (Don’t go to the police
station they are not opened! Out here in the valley
Please pass this on. We heard about this a long
time ago but it was in LA or someplace. Didn’t even
think much about it except to think how sick it was.
Well, they are here now. So be aware!
Bruce and Bonnie (Alive and kicking)
Heard this one?
A Spokane Valley couple, Bruce and Bonnie, on their way home from the lake Saturday night, pass a car traveling with its headlights off. The couple flash their car’s high beams as a heads-up warning to the other driver that he’s driving in the dark. Terror ensues. The couple’s lives are threatened.
Lately, the story of Bruce and Bonnie has been spreading like wildfire on the Internet as Spokane locals receive – and then disseminate – the account via e-mail. The story suggests the chase was part of a gang member initiation, with the death of Bruce and Bonnie being the objective.
And people are taking it seriously; the Spokane Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was sending the e-mail to its members this week as a warning.
But Spokane Valley police say the gang allegations in the e-mail are bogus, apparently originating from an old Internet hoax about gang pledges baiting and killing unsuspecting motorists as part of a bloody initiation. They say they suspect an angry driver was responsible – not gang members.
“It’s probably more likely a case of road rage, and that’s a real problem. Road rage is scary,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane Valley police spokesman. “But people have heard it was gang-related, and that’s an urban legend.”
Reagan said he learned about the incident via e-mail, as a growing number of concerned Spokane Valley residents have.
The e-mail account says the couple called 911 while they were being chased through Spokane Valley, but there’s no record of the call, according to police.
In the story, the couple does the right thing, Reagan said; they just keep driving to a well-lit place where they can get help.
The story of prospective gang members killing drivers who flash their headlights at pledges is an urban legend dating back to the early 1980s, according to Snopes.com, an Internet service that debunks online hoaxes.
The story has been applied to would-be gang members from Los Angeles to London.
The story also was key to the plot of the 1998 movie “Urban Legend.” The movie’s tag line was: “It happened to someone who knows someone you know. … Never talk to strangers, never answer the phone, never flash your lights, never leave the car and always believe what you’re told.”