|On January 23, 2015 the Kingsport Police Department was made aware of a video that had been circulated on YouTube, purporting to be surveillance footage of an actual robbery to a local music store in Kingsport. Not only was the video posted on a popular social media platform, but a link to the video was also emailed to at least one local media outlet.
The video depicted a masked, knife wielding, suspect attempting an armed robbery, with the owner of the store foiling the robbery by pointing a large handgun at the suspect. The caption that accompanied the video indicated that it was an actual robbery that had occurred the previous evening.
An immediate search of K.P.D. incident reports and dispatch records showed no history of this alleged crime having ever been reported. K.P.D. reached out to the store owner who initially claimed that the attempted robbery really occurred. When asked why it was not reported to the police, he said that he did not report it since nobody was injured and nothing was stolen.
A few minutes later, the Patrol Watch Commander contacted the owner to arrange for an officer to take an incident report and begin an investigation. During this second conversation the truth finally surfaced. The owner apologized for his dishonesty, admitted it was staged, and acknowledged that the “robber” in the video was a trained actor that he and an employee had hired to play the role. At the request of K.P.D. the video was temporarily removed from YouTube.
Further investigation on January 26, 2015 involved a conversation between Kingsport Police Detectives and the owner and employee of the music store. During this meeting, detectives provided them with a copy of Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-502 which is the state statute regarding false reporting. This law states that it is unlawful to make a statement in response to a legitimate inquiry by a law enforcement officer concerning a material fact about an incident knowing that the statement is false. False reporting can be either a Class C or D felony depending on the circumstances.
The store owner and employee apologized and told detectives that they meant no harm and were merely trying to make a video that would go “viral” to help boost business and discourage crime at their store. No charges have been placed in this incident; however, it remains under investigation. The video has been made available for viewing again on YouTube; however, it is now accompanied by a disclaimer more accurately and appropriately labeling it as being “staged” and “not real.”
The Kingsport Police Department wishes to stress that, regardless of their intent, the actions of these individuals were deceitful, foolish, irresponsible, and short-sighted and were ultimately a complete waste of valuable law enforcement resources. This incident should be used by others as an example of what not to do.