DOZENS of Schools Targeted Within A Few Days As Wave of Fake ‘Active Shooter’ Calls Continues Across U.S.
Three days ago, Americans were inundated with reports of a school shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee — a story which has dominated the news cycle ever since, inflaming debates surrounding gun control, mental health, the “LGBTQ+” movement, and other hot-button issues.
But as the national news media keeps the country fixated on this event, another related storyline is playing out just below the radar of most news consumers: a huge wave of “hoax” phone calls alleging that non-existent schools shootings are taking place, often eliciting lockdowns, evacuations, SWAT team visits, and mass panic throughout the many localities in which they take place.
The latest chapter in this underreported saga has played out over the past few days, as dozens of schools spanning multiple different states have been the targets of such calls within the span of about 48 hours.
Let’s first take a look at what’s happened this week, before going back even further in time for added context.
Monday: Rhode Island
On Monday, shortly before the events at the Covenant School, a string of fake “school shooting” phone calls began in the state of Rhode Island. No less than 14 separate municipalities were targeted.
As reported by NBC-affiliate WJAR that day (bold added here and throughout):
Rhode Island State Police said at least 14 municipalities received unfounded “swatting” calls Monday from the same caller stating people had been shot at multiple schools.
“This kind of hoax is called ‘swatting’ and is meant to generate a large-scale police response, but the Fusion Center identified this as a hoax very quickly,” said Lt. Col. Robert Creamer. “Swatting hoaxes frequently originate from outside of the local area, but we take every threat seriously and want to the assure the public that our schools are secure.”
The first call reportedly came in at 8:45am, which – if media accounts are to be believed – was just over an hour before Audrey Hale arrived at the Covenant School in Nashville. (ABC News has her pulling into the parking lot at 9:53am, and shooting through the front door at 10:10am.).
From the same WJAR article:
Westerly [Rhode Island] police were the first to receive the call just after 8:45 a.m. on Monday.
“They announced there was a lockdown and everyone was running,” Westerly junior Kasey Cushing said. “This cop came out of nowhere with a gun and scared the crap out of me and he was like, ‘Go hide.’ I went to hide in the bathroom, I was standing on top of the toilet and this other cop with like an AK comes in and pointed it and said, ‘Is anyone in here?’ and then he checked it and then he left.”
“You never really know what’s going on until it happens and so really it’s a terrifying experience,” senior Gabrielle Young said.
There was no shooter, and no one was injured but Westerly Police Department said social media posts based on the initial dispatch call added to the chaos and confusion.
“Things go around on social media so you never know what’s really going on,” Young said. “And so that that scares people I think the most.”
But Westerly wasn’t where it ended. Not even close. The article continues:
A short time later, Charlestown [Rhode Island] police received a call to their non-emergency line saying there was a shooter at Chariho High School.
Richmond Police Lt. John Arnold was at Chariho High School when the hoax call came in.
He said until police can confirm there’s no threat, they have to respond as if there is an active shooter.
“We train on a regular basis to respond to school shootings. It’s something that we take serious all the time,” Arnold told NBC 10 News. “You can’t have in the back of your head, ‘This may not be the real thing.’ You just have to go with the assertion of thinking that something may be happening.”
Before the day was over, “at least” another dozen Rhode Island schools reportedly received the same kinds of calls, eliciting terror and anxiety throughout the state.
As reported by local CBS-affiliate WPRI:
Rhode Island State Police told 12 News at least 14 cities and towns received calls reporting an active shooter, all of which were found to be fake. A number of schools were put on lockdown until police were able to respond to assure the buildings were safe.
The districts included Barrington, Bristol, Chariho, Charlestown, Cranston, East Greenwich, East Providence, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Westerly and Woonsocket, 12 News learned.
These so-called “swatting” calls came in a short time before an actual school shooting in Nashville…
The article goes on to explain that – according to police – the calls were all made by the same person and from the same phone number. (Again: According to police; it does not appear that the public has been provided with proof of this yet.)
The Rhode Island State Police Fusion Center is now collecting information on the hoax calls and working to track down who’s responsible. Col. Darnell Weaver said police believe the calls were made by the same person, based on their voice.
Target 12 has learned the caller sounded male with a heavy accent and claimed to be locked in a bathroom with victims. The calls all originated from the same number.
WPRI also wrote about the seriousness of the offense, and potential penalties:
Anyone found guilty of making hoax phone calls in Rhode Island could face felony charges.
“Obviously, anything related to school shootings, in today’s day and age, the police respond and think about the lockdown. The courts take it really seriously, as well as the prosecutors,” said 12 News law enforcement analyst and former R.I. State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell.
“There’s also violations of federal law, which could be up to a five-year minimum,” he added.
That’s a lot to risk for a mere “prank,” which is why immediately writing this off as such without considering other possibilities is not rational.
Monday (Part II): Missouri
Rhode Island was not the only state that was targeted on Monday. The same thing was happening around the same time to a slew of communities in Missouri as well.
From Columbus, MO’s KOMU:
Multiple Missouri school districts and law enforcement are investigating a series of “swatting” texts and calls made Monday.
Swatting is when an individual makes a hoax call to 911 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Swatting calls were made at least nine Missouri schools, including Knob Noster High School, North Kansas City High School, Carl Junction High School, Smith Cotton Junior High, Kickapoo High School, Ozark High School, Carthage High School, Branson High School and Wright City High School.
In each case, the caller said there was a shooting at the school. It’s not clear if any of the texts/calls were made by the same person.
Schools went on brief lockdowns while law enforcement investigated. They concluded each case was a false alarm.
Although the above-quoted passage says that its “not clear if any of the texts-calls were made by the same person,” at least one law enforcement source – Clay County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sarah Boyd – made the same “accent” claim regarding at least one of the calls:
From Kansas City’s KMBC:
Sarah Boyd, the spokesperson for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, said someone called the NKCPD non-emergency phone number around 11:50 a.m. and reported a shooting inside North Kansas City High School.
The caller, who had an accent that was difficult to understand, Boyd said, told authorities that multiple people had been shot in a specific room of the high school.
No other 911 calls came in to corroborate the report.
Boyd said officers and deputies quickly responded to the school and determined there was no threat, and that the call was likely a “swatting” incident.
Meanwhile, another of the targeted Missouri districts, Knob Noster, reported on Facebook:
UPDATE AT 2:00PM: The call with the threat that was made to law enforcement today is being traced to the source and they have initial leads on the source. Law enforcement has confirmed this call came from a “burner phone”. This initial information is consistent with other “swatting” calls which have occurred across the country. “Swatting” is a recent trend where fake threats are called in to school with the intent to create panic
So, once again, just like Rhode Island, police reportedly had the phone number on Monday, and were working to “trace” it “to the source,” and even reportedly had “initial leads.”
However, it does not appear that any suspects or arrests have been announced, and none of this did anything to stop this terror campaign from continuing.
Bright and early the next morning, as the nation was still processing the news about Nashville, another barrage of fake “school shooting” reports occurred, this time in Massachusetts, and on an even larger scale. No less than 28 different schools were hit. From Boston.com:
More than two dozen Massachusetts schools were targeted by hoax calls reporting school shootings Tuesday, just a day after six people died in a school shooting in Nashville.
There are no reports of injuries from the Massachusetts schools.
NBC10 Boston reported that Massachusetts State Police said they were notified of 28 schools across the state that were targeted by hoax calls, otherwise known as “swatting” calls, Tuesday.
The first call reportedly came in at 8:43am – pretty much the exact same time as the first call in Rhode Island the previous day, almost down to the minute:
Mansfield High School appears to be one of the first schools targeted. Mansfield police said they received a call reporting a shooting at the school at 8:43 a.m.
Here’s a summary of the partial timeline that the Boston.com article provides:
- 8:43am: Mansfield High School
- 8:50am: Foxborough High School
- 9:02am: Franklin High School
- 9:14am: Medway High School
- 10:10am: Haverhill High School
- 10:40am: Pittsfield High School
- 11:02am: Greenfield High School
- “A little after 11am”: Northampton High School
- 11:34am: Framingham High School
- “Late morning”: Austin Prep
Again: In addition to these ten, an additional 18 other schools were targeted in the state the same day.
Was that the end? No. On Wednesday, it was Pennsylvania’s turn.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Panic then relief rippled across the Pittsburgh region Wednesday when a series of fake phone calls reporting active school shooters shattered the quiet of the mid-morning.
An Allegheny County spokesperson said the county 911 line had received two separate calls reporting an active shooter at two separate schools, Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic, but that authorities believed “these are false reports.” Similar calls targeted schools in numerous other counties across Western Pennsylvania and beyond.
Numerous high schools in Eastern Pennsylvania received such calls, Lehigh Valley Live reported
Calls were received about schools in Allegheny, Beaver, Blair, Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Lehigh, Mercer and Northampton counties.
In fact, according to Lehigh Valley News, “up to two dozen” schools in PA were targeted. Once again, the same elements are reportedly present: a known phone number and the voice of a man with a thick accent. The starting time – 8:15am – is similar too, although slightly earlier this time:
Pennsylvania State Police said midday Wednesday that calls went out to various schools across the state, all with similar content involving threats of an active shooter situation or bomb threat.
A statement from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, obtained by 69 News, says up to two dozen schools have been affected, with all or most of the calls coming from the same California phone number.
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg says the calls appear to have been computer-generated.
All of the calls have been hoaxes, police said, but all prompted a large emergency response and lockdowns.
The Lehighton Borough Police Department said it got a call at 8:15 a.m. from a male with a thick foreign accent stating that there was a school shooting at the “Lehighton High School.”
Wednesday (Part II): New Jersey
Pennsylvania wasn’t the only state that was targeted with fake school shooting scares on Wednesday. New Jersey did, too. From the same Lehigh Valley News story:
Fake calls reporting active shooters targeted several schools in the region Wednesday morning. Multiple “swatting” calls, a fake call intended to cause a large police response, targeted several schools in the Lehigh Valley, the Poconos, and western New Jersey, including Catasauqua, William Allen, Nazareth Area and Phillipsburg high schools.
(Note: The western portion of New Jersey shares a border with the eastern side of neighboring Pennsylvania.)
Wednesday (Part III): Utah
Let’s keep this short, because you already know the story by now:
At least five schools throughout Utah on Wednesday received unfounded threats and false shooting calls, prompting police responses and leaving teachers, students and parents “traumatized,” one official said.
Continuation of a Trend
Doing the math, this would mean something like 85 different schools in at least 5 different states were targeted within a span of just about 48 hours this week with these types of calls – and the ensuing panic and trauma that they engender:
However, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, this most recent surge is only the “latest chapter” in a longer-running story that’s been unfolding.
A WIRED story from back in early October of 2022 rather succinctly summed up what was going on at that time – namely an extremely similar string of incidents that had occurred over the preceding weeks.
The title: A Swatting Spree Is Terrorizing Schools Across the US
Subtitle: Sixteen states collectively suffered more than 90 false reports of school shooters during three weeks in September—and many appear to be connected.
Quoting from the WIRED piece:
Through local news reports, police records, and interviews with state and local officials, WIRED compiled a list of 92 false reports of school shooting incidents in 16 states that took place from September 13 to 30. … While experts who study violence at schools say that false reports of shootings inspire copycats, state and local law enforcement officials say that many of these swatting attacks seem to stem from a single person or group.
Of the false reports WIRED tracked, at least 32 appear to be linked to a single group or perpetrator. Of the 60 remaining calls, many were made within minutes of one another. Most police departments refused to provide us with records or did not respond to multiple requests to confirm details about the contents of the calls, however, so the number of calls linked to a single swatting campaign may be much higher.
Superintendent Drew Evans of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a statewide fusion center tracking these incidents, says that in each of the 17 calls in his state, the caller had a distinct accent and that the calls were made using the same voice over IP technology. “There’s a lot of different technology that could make it appear to be a single person, but all the indications we have are that it’s either one person or a single entity,” Evans says.
In audio of the call to Sangamon County Central Dispatch, the caller indeed had a discernible accent. In a detailed report of the call for service, the dispatcher noted that the caller was a “FOREIGN SPEAKING MALE” and that the caller was “SPEAKING VERY FAST WITH MIDDLE EASTERN ACCENT.” Audio of two calls from Ohio that WIRED obtained appear to be of the same person as the Springfield call’s “Tom Gomez,” and the caller describes the fake shooting with nearly identical details about the incident. In total, law enforcement officials from six states—Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia—all described receiving similar calls. In each call, officials confirmed that a man with a heavy accent called from an out-of-state number and reported a mass-casualty attack. In some instances the caller reported that the shooting occurred in a specific room number that does not exist and included details about the color of the pants, shirts, and jackets of the alleged shooters.
WIRED provides recordings of two of these alleged calls, which they simply say that they “obtained” without any further details about the source:
1. A call purportedly placed to Sangamon County Central Dispatch in Illinois on September 15, 2022, falsely reporting that two gunmen had shot a dozen students at Springfield High School.https://t.co/L7OUqFmLlL— Decensored News (@decensorednews) March 30, 2023
2. A call purportedly placed to police in Sharonville, Ohio, reporting a non-existent shooting at Princeton High School. (While the date is not given, this would presumably be the call that sent the school into a panicked lockdown on September 23, 2022)https://t.co/6FxNAOotSC— Decensored News (@decensorednews) March 30, 2023
These calls continued in waves in the intervening months between September and this week’s onslaught. Let’s look at an (undoubtedly incomplete) chronology:
Oct 5: South Carolina – “Fake shooting calls were reported in at least 15 districts.”
Oct 11: Florida – “School shooting hoax” calls reported throughout the state, including Alachua County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, “among other communities.”
Oct 14: New Jersey – Affected municipalities include Hamilton Township, Lower Township, Barnegat, Stafford, Jackson Township, Toms River, Newark, Hamburg, East Brunswick
Oct 20: Wisconsin – “14 false active shooter threats” reported.
Nov 29: Alabama – “School systems across the state” were subject to “hoax active shooter calls” that “resuled in multiple lockdowns issued.”
Dec 8: New Hampshire – “At least 14 schools” are reported to be “under attack by active shooters,” forcing schools “immediately into lockdown” and cause “panic among teachers, students, and parents.” In a news release, Robert Buxton, Director of the NH Department of Safety’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says: “These incidents continue to show us why it is important for schools to conduct trainings and exercises on those plans, throughout the school year, in partnership with their local first responders.”
Dec 8: Oklahoma – “A rash of hoax active school shooter calls targeted districts across Oklahoma on Thursday,” per FOX 25. “A caller or callers made the fake calls involving schools in a number of areas, including Stillwater, Enid, Durant, Ardmore, Medford, Miami, Perry, and Tulsa.”
Dec 9: Montana – Series of “active shooter” reports across the state.
Feb 7: California – Multiple schools in Southern California go into lockdown after they are “plagued by hoax active shooter calls.”
Feb 13-15: Massachusetts – “At least 31 schools” across the state are targeted over the course of three days.
Feb 21: Oregon – “Schools and police in two Oregon counties report rash of fake active shooter calls.”
Feb 22: Colorado – 17 schools throughout the state undergo emergency response procedures after a series of calls in which the caller claimed that he “had an AR-15, pipe bombs and was about to start shooting students,” causing “extreme anxiety for students, parents and police.” A recording of one of the calls is released by 9NEWS.
Feb 22: Idaho – “Several law enforcement agencies” receive “fake school shooting reports called in to 911 Dispatch centers,” causing Twin Falls High School, the College of Southern Idaho, Jerome schools, and others to go into lockdown. At least one of the calls (to Cassia law enforcement) is reportedly from “an anonymous caller with a foreign accent.”
Feb 28: Minnesota – “Eight fake shooting calls reported in two days” (KARE 11)
Mar 2: Nebraska – “Schools across Nebraska receive hoax shooting threats.” This includes Lincoln, Omaha, Hastings, Grand Island, Kearney, Columbus and Fremont.
Mar 21: Ohio – Numerous schools around the state are targeted. Affected areas include Springfield, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Lewis Center.
Mar 21: Iowa – “30 schools” are reportedly “locked down over fake shooting reports.”
If the “same person” or group is behind all or most of these calls, including the ones this week and the ones back in September, that would mean that this entity has been able to target well over 200 different schools – maybe a lot more – spanning huge swaths of the country with a sustained terror campaign for at least six months with apparent impunity.
Here’s WIRED back in October again:
STATE AND LOCAL law enforcement say they are working with the FBI to trace the source of the calls. But right now, they are providing few details. Lieutenant Windam of the Alexandria Police Department in Lousiana says the FBI traced the call to an “African country known for harboring terrorists.” He declined to name the country. In Cloquet, Minnesota, the police department similarly says that the FBI informed them that the call “originated in a similar bomb-threat incident in Africa,” according to the Duluth News Tribune. In Virginia, where more than a dozen schools were targeted, the chief of police of South Hill says that he thinks “an app was used to spoof phone numbers” and that the “FBI tracked it back to Africa.”
When asked about the call’s connection to a country in Africa, the FBI declined to comment. However, in an emailed statement, the agency says, “The FBI takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk. While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention.”
So the FBI has been allegedly “on the case” this entire time. No apparent arrests or even suspects.
Meanwhile, countless thousands of families in scores upon scores of municipalities continue to experience their own “worst nightmare” scenario.
And, when they do, it seems all too real to them, partially because they are not aware that this has been happening in other states due to severe underreporting by the national news media.
Look at the source links in this article. They’re mostly local news outlets.
People in each of these localities don’t learn that there is an on-going, nationwide campaign of fraudulent “active shooter at the school” calls until after it happens to them, and they have already experienced the full terror that comes with it.
What will the excuse be for leaving these people in the dark? (Figuratively, and in many cases literally, as thousands of children cower under their desks in fear of being imminently shot to death.)
Let me guess: “We didn’t want to report it because we were afraid people would stop taking threats seriously when there was a real shooting.”
If so, will you buy that?
The question seems to be—
The FBI and national news media: Wildly incompetent? Benevolent “noble liars”? Or the dogs that didn’t bark?
Quoting WIRED one last time:
Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana, was one of at least 16 Louisiana schools targeted in September. Lieutenant Lane Windham of the Alexandria Police Department says the explanation is obvious. “I don’t think this is some prank. It’s terrorism,” he says. “When someone’s trying to terrorize the teachers, parents, all the students, and the community, what else can you call it?
OK… but who are the terrorists?