Staff walk out of Hollywood climbing gym, say company kept shooting threat a secret

Employees at a popular Los Angeles rock climbing gym walked out after learning that management had not immediately disclosed a shooting threat and that they had worked in ignorance — and possible danger, they said — for days.

According to an open letter posted by staff at Hollywood Boulders, one of five Touchstone Climbing gyms in Southern California, a gym member on Oct. 22 reported concerning text messages that they had received from another member. The letter did not repeat the messages in full but included phrases by the writer that they were “strapped” and “wanted scalps,” as well as a warning to the recipient to “avoid the gym for a while.”

The texts went on to say the gym had “been way too lenient with all the wannabes here. no mas” and that the member “already has a kill order” and “god has spoken.” When the person who received the messages asked, “wdym stay away from the gym? Everything okay?”, the member replied, “i’ll know soon enough.”

The Oct. 25 walkout coincidentally happened the same day as 18 people were killed in a mass shooting in Maine, which put people throughout the nation on edge as police hunted for the gunman, who was later found dead.

“Mass shootings happen virtually every single day in this country,” the open letter states. “This is part of our new normal.”

In a staffwide email sent Tuesday that was shared with The Times, company Chief Executive Mark Melvin said the threats were not found to be credible.

Melvin said in the email that the threats were immediately reported to law enforcement, which determined they were not credible and told company officials to “take no further action and not to alarm our staff and community.”

Although gym owners and upper management were informed of the threats, according to the open letter, staff members did not learn about them until Oct. 25. It is not clear from the letter how employees learned of the texts. Staff asked to see the messages but were unable to get them from management, the letter says, so they walked off the job, causing the gym to close early.

The letter criticizes management’s decision to withhold the threats from staff, as well as the actions taken without input from staff.

In his email to staff, Melvin said external security was hired at all five locations in Southern California, and the person who wrote the texts was banned from all gym locations.

Melvin in his email emphasized that the text message threats never specified a location, that they were not deemed credible by law enforcement, that there was no active shooter present and that the messages were simply “personal communication” between two gym members.

The gym remained closed Oct. 26 because of the walkout but reopened the following day, according to Melvin. Staff also began circulating a letter to gym members, encouraging them to freeze or cancel their memberships and to donate the funds to a GoFundMe fundraiser toward staff to make up for lost wages during the walkout.

Hollywood Boulders management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This is the first time we’ve experienced anything like this, and we know our response wasn’t perfect,” Melvin’s email concludes. “Given the tragic state of gun violence in our nation, we understand why some members of our community were alarmed to learn about some details of these events through various online channels.”

Original News Source Link – LA Times

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