OUR OPINION: Idiot's Wal-Mart swatting was terrorism

The shepherd boy was bored as he sat upon a hill, overseeing his flock. "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep," he cried. Villagers rushed to the hill to lend aid, but alas, found no wolf. The boy snickered, and later repeated the trick with...

Our Opinion
Our Opinion

The shepherd boy was bored as he sat upon a hill, overseeing his flock.

"Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep," he cried.

Villagers rushed to the hill to lend aid, but alas, found no wolf. The boy snickered, and later repeated the trick with the same result.

The story is from Aesop's Fables, and has been recited told with variations throughout the centuries. As most know, the wolf did actually appear later, yet nobody came running when the boy cried out again.

The moral of the story is that nobody believes a liar, even when he is telling the truth. And it's from where the phrase "cry wolf" arose.


We paraphrase the tale to lend background to events in Grand Forks, where twice in recent days "Wolf!" was shouted from the hilltop -- once as a true precaution and service to the community, and once in a disgraceful display that we hope results in stiff penalties and public shame for the offender.

In the first instance, storm sirens blared Sunday as ominous weather approached the city's western edge. Unfortunately, not everyone heeds these warnings, and that worries us. Too many Grand Forks residents simply go on with their lives when the sirens sound, and that seemed to be the case Sunday.

Worse, we've heard some complain that the city is being too cautious and too quick with the emergency system.

In Tuesday's edition, the Herald reported that the sirens sounded because a thunderstorm with the capability of producing a twister was in the area. The Herald piece noted other reasons for sounding the sirens are:

  • A funnel cloud observed within 20 miles of the city.

  • A wall cloud, known to be capable of producing tornadoes, near or moving toward the city.

  • Straight-line winds with speeds of 70 mph in the area.

  • An imminent threat to the community.

In the end, all was well. The storm didn't produce a tornado in the city, although tornadoes skipped across the landscape south and east of the region.
We, like others, have questioned whether the liberal use of the sirens is necessary, since sounding them will, over time, build complacency. That's dangerous.

However, we figure it's best to continue using the current criteria. Being overcautious will eventually save lives.

That was Sunday afternoon.

That night, some idiot evidently called Wal-Mart and claimed there was a shooter at the south-side store -- the same Wal-Mart where in May a shooter killed an employee, injured another and then shot himself in a rampage that still has the city on edge.


The Sunday call is now being considered a hoax, although it prompted the evacuation of approximately 100 employees and store patrons and brought dozens of law-enforcement personnel to the scene. It also caused the closure of Wal-Mart for several hours.

Police are now trying to track down who made the call. We urge anyone with possible leads to call the police department at 701-787-8000.

The act was so senseless and utterly useless, but it's part of a growing trend that's occurring throughout the nation. Unfortunately, it's not unique to Grand Forks, since someone did the same thing earlier this year at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. It also happened at another local business in March.

This is no harmless prank. Imagine someone being injured in a traffic mishap as police rush to the scene. Or a bystander being mistaken for an alleged shooter.

It also is a burden on public funds, and it's unfair to the businesses that are affected. Really, it's nothing short of terrorism.

Crying wolf for the sake of public safety is legitimate, albeit sometimes annoying. We can live with it.

Crying wolf to spawn terror is nothing short of disgusting, and that's something we just can't stomach.




Opinion by Korrie Wenzel
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

Over time, he has been a board member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103.
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