BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Police in Bristol, Virginia responded to the Walmart on Lee Highway Wednesday after receiving a call about a possible hostage situation that police now say was likely a scam.
According to Captain Maynard Ratcliff of the Bristol Virginia Police Department, a father and son trucking team received a phone call, during which the caller said a family member of theirs was being held hostage in Florida.
The father and son were told by the caller to withdraw money for the safe return of the family member.
When BVPD was first contacted around 11 a.m., responders believed they were being called to a hostage situation at Walmart. Several officers arrived at the store.
Truck driver Don Lord said he was heading up to Pennsylvania for a delivery. He works as a team with his son, who got a phone call from a Mexico-based phone number on Tuesday afternoon.
“They were contacting my son, and said they had his son, my grandson… they didn’t want any questions. They wanted us to do exactly what they said,” Lord told reporters on scene.
The father and son were ordered by the unknown caller to have no communication with anyone and were instructed to go to a Walmart.
“They got word the someone had some of their family members held hostage in Florida. They were ordered to withdraw money from a bank, and we’re not sure how they were supposed to transfer the money,” said Ratcliff.
Officials said the trucking company that employed the father-son team contacted Virginia State Police after not hearing from the drivers.
Trooper Wayne Stumbo said he was first called to the Walmart on Wednesday morning to check on the drivers.
“He basically seemed very scared and very nervous so I called for backup at that point,” said Stumbo.
Bristol Virginia Police responded and a SWAT team came to inspect the truck.
“We were just clearing the truck to make sure it was safe, there was no one in the truck, there was no explosives or contraband,” said Ratcliff.
Nothing of concern was found, and investigators determined the hostage threat wasn’t real.
“The people had scammed them into thinking they were going to harm their family,” Ratcliff said.
Investigators don’t know how much money was demanded or who was behind the scam.
Lord says he’s never experienced anything like it. But he’s been able to confirm his grandson is OK.
“If you’ve got family, yeah, it could happen to anybody,” said Lord.
Bristol police said they consider the investigation to be closed, and there is no ongoing danger to the public.