For one night a year, all crimes--even murder--are legal.
If it sounds like the premise for a horror movie, it's because it is: it's the plot of the 2013 movie "The Purge," and its sequel, which came out this summer.
But it's also the premise behind a frightening photo that has gone viral online. The photo shows a masked figure from the movie with a date and list of cities on it. It states that the "purge" will occur on that night in the listed location(s).
Authorities say the photo originated in Louisville, Ky. by a teen who claimed he tweeted the photo as a joke. He said he never dreamed it would be taken seriously--instead it got the attention of the FBI, the Louisville Police Department, and even led to a few events being cancelled. There was no spike in crime the night "the purge" was supposedly going to take place, and Louisville residents told the media later that they knew all along it was a hoax.
"It's probably the silliest thing I ever heard," one resident said.
But it didn't end there; the photo took on a life of its own, spreading to cities across the country. In recent days, a copycat picture emerged with a September date and five Colorado cities listed. Sunday and Monday, 11 News was flooded with inquiries about it.
Springs police assure the public that there will be no night of legalized crime sanctioned by the government--but they are still taking the warning of a mass crime wave seriously. Police said they will not tolerate anyone trying to turn this hoax into a reality.
"We're going to investigate any type of a criminal activity if it does occur on that day. Whether it's by coincidence or by purpose, and we're going to prosecute it to its fullest," CSPD Lt. Catherine Buckley said.
Buckley said police were notified about the picture last week. Although it's not real, she told us they are making all CSPD officers aware of it.
"Not only do we have our patrol on it, but we also have our specialized unit briefed on it, and we have it's been briefed on the way up through the chief," Lt. Buckley said.
Viewers said the threat the picture was making--hoax or not--was unnerving.
"I don't know what to think of that, it kind of scares me a little bit," Jessica Clayton said.
“Ever since the Columbine thing, it seems like everyone's awareness is really high about that kind of stuff now," Micah Hammel said.
"I felt a little unsafe but I was like ‘whoa that would be crazy’ if that went down," Bradley Rains added.
"I can tell you right now, here in the city of Colorado Springs and the county of El Paso, that will not be happening," Lt. Buckley said.
The teen who apparently started it all doesn't face any charges, but another teenager might: in Ontario, Ohio, a 14-year-old might be charged with inducing a panic after allegedly creating "The Purge" Facebook page for that town.