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Gazette file photo

A man said he was mugged while entering the Heights Walmart earlier this month, but police say there's little evidence to back that story up.

On Feb. 2, a Billings man returned home and told his neighbor he had his wallet stolen by a pair of unknown assailants outside the Walmart in the Heights. He had been walking into the store, he reportedly said, when one of the men asked him a question and the other one hit him across the back of the head, causing him to fall to the ground.

While he was still on the ground, one of the alleged muggers kicked him and stole his wallet, according to a subsequent press release from the Billings Police Department. No further description of the suspects was provided.

After hearing the man's story, his neighbor called 911 to get an ambulance for the apparent victim, and to report the alleged theft.

"When we looked into that, we had no video (surveillance) of anything like that happening in front of the store," Police Sgt. Shane Winden said Monday morning.

The man had apparently become fairly intoxicated at the nearby VFW in the Heights before the incident took place, Winden said.

"He had no injury to support what he was saying, other than that his wallet was missing," Winden said. "We don't really believe there was anything behind it."

But reports of the incident, including the press release, prompted some Walmart shoppers to question the store's safety.

"Walmart's been dealing with the fallout of everyone thinking it's not safe because they might get mugged in front of the store," Winden said.

Winden declined to comment on why the man may have fabricated the story. He added that the alleged victim won't be charged with making a false statement to police, since his neighbor was the person reporting it and the man was too intoxicated to provide a reliable statement.

A manager of the Heights Walmart store and the corporation's public relations team declined to comment.

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.