Walt Wawra, who felt the need to pack heat in a Calgary park has set off a storm of social media ridicule
An American tourist who felt the need to pack heat in a Calgary park has set off a storm of social media ridicule. And now it’s emerging that the “very aggressive” strangers he encountered may have just been representatives from an oil company giving out free passes to the Stampede.
Earlier this week, Walt Wawra detailed an unnerving, at least according to him, recent run-in with two young men in a Calgary park who asked if he had been to the Stampede in a “very aggressive tone.”
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The off-duty cop from Kalamazoo, Mich., brushed them off, but lamented his lack of a handgun in a letter to the Herald.
Wawra’s response to the seemingly mundane, daylight encounter has sparked scorn across the Internet.
Gawker called Wawra the “laughingstock of Canada.”
“Walt Wawra is why we can’t have nice things,” wrote blogger Shea Wong.
The Huffington Post Canada described it as “Fear and Loathing in Cowtown.”
Wawra did not return requests for an interview Wednesday. However, he previously detailed his account of a chance meeting in a letter to the editor.
During a trip through Nose Hill Park with his wife, the couple were asked by two men if they had “Been to the Stampede yet?”
Wawra didn’t reply, and was asked again. The aggressive tone had the off-duty cop instinctively reaching for his handgun.
“I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, ‘Gentlemen, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye,’ ” he wrote.
Despite describing the men as bewildered, Wawra thanked “the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort.”
The 20-year officer lamented the strange feeling of being unarmed.
“Many would say I have no need to carry [a gun] in Canada,” Wawra wrote. “Yet the police cannot protect everyone all the time. A man should be allowed to protect himself if the need arises.”
Subsequent to the online furor over the letter, Calgary Cultural Ambassador Jenn Lutz said in a tweet that the two “very aggressive” men Wawra encountered were simply giving out free stampede passes.
@redgypsee Apparently 2 guys representing Calgary oil co. gave free #Stampede passes in Nose Hill. Talk about snap judgement from US cop.
The report that the men were promoters was, however, contested by a media relations manager of the Stampede in an interview with the local Kalamazoo paper.
Congregating under the Twitter hashtag: #NoseHillGentlemen, the Twittersphere mocked the officer’s paranoia after his letter was posted online.
“At the off leash this morning when two terriers started to sniff my dog, If only Canada would allow my dog to pack heat. #nosehillgentlemen,” wrote Connor Turner.
“Ice cream truck just sped past house. Sir, I have no need for your refreshing pseudo-milk product treats. Goodbye. #NoseHillGentlemen,” teased Kikki Planet.
Chris Turner, one of the masterminds behind the trending tag, said it shows the power of social media.
“It’s an absurd, silly little demonstration of how powerful this tool is,” said Turner, a Calgary journalist and author.
Rebecca Sullivan, a professor of cultural studies at the University of Calgary, said the story has a short shelf life given a rapid news cycle.
But it will evolve into other discussions about park safety, border politics or the Stampede, Sullivan said.
“That’s what conversations do,” she said.
Postmedia News with files from National Post Staff
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