Sheriff responds to 'The Purge' social media threats

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- First Coast News received multiple messages in social media Wednesday from concerned viewers asking about an ominous photo floating around social media sites.

The graphic image titled 'The Purge' reads "Get Your Squad Ready" and gives a date of midnight on August 31. An image of a creepy smiling man along with smaller images of a knife and a gun are also seen in the graphic.

The post has also popped up in cities like Louisville and Detroit. Threats of a "Louisville Purge" even caused the postponement of at least one high school football scrimmage Friday night.

In Louisville, police traced the threat back to a teen who said, "It was originally supposed to be just a fun thing, I never thought it'd get as serious as it did."

The image is of a character from The Purge, a 2013 American action horror thriller film where people have a 12-hour period when all crimes become legal. The Purge was also the theme for last year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.

One FCN Facebook member shared the photo with us and wrote, "There are a lot of concerned parents about the attachment I am sending. There are groups of gangs sharing this on the internet."

"Don't want my name out there but this [photo] is all over Facebook and people are actually thinking it's real. You have any idea what this is about," another FCN Facebook user wrote in a message.

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford caught wind of the concerns and put out a statement Wednesday evening. Rutherford said there is "no credible information to indicate that this is a legitimate threat to the city of Jacksonville."

His full statement reads:

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office takes all threats (or perceived threats) including those posted on social media, seriously. We are aware of The Purge posting (based on the fiction contained in a movie) and are looking into this. Obviously, we will not discuss tactics, but as with any perceived threat, we appreciate the assistance of the public in passing that along to us.

Commenting on our Facebook page (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) or tweeting @JSOPIO with these items many not illicit a response publicly, but rest assured we are reading your posts. For information about contacting JSO via email, please visit us at

When appropriate, we will make a public response. At this time we have no credible information to indicate that this is a legitimate threat to the city of Jacksonville.

I would caution the media to exercise responsible journalism in reporting this activity. Many of the "shares" and "reposts" are merely people expressing their concern and not necessarily a sign of engagement or endorsement of the message. There is a difference!

Thank you,

John H. Rutherford, Sheriff

Duval County, FL


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