Swatting – TikTok Encourages Fake Reports
A call comes into 911 with a terrified person breathlessly reports spotting someone with a gun in school, or that they heard shots. Sometimes students, teachers or even the caller have been shot. Sometimes specific room numbers are named. A name and a return phone number might be provided, if the caller doesn’t hang up first.
And then armed and armored law enforcement mobilizes in force, schools are locked down, students and teachers hide and parents and guardians worry until police and deputies and SWAT can mobilize to evacuate the building and do a room-by-room search to find… nothing.
That phone number is usually out-of-state, often registered as belonging to someone with no idea it had been used or is a Google-generated number with a difficult to trace IP. The voice is typically a male of Middle Eastern descent and claims to be in a school building witnessing a shooting.
It’s called “swatting” and while it’s been an occasional problem that has been reported as early as Dec 2021, in the last few months it’s become a fast-growing trend.
Earlier this week, the Nebraska Information Analysis Center (NIAC), a division of NSP, provided a bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the state and the Nebraska Department of Education regarding a trend of “swatting” calls that had been reported in several other states this year, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Vermont. That bulletin advised local agencies to be prepared in the event the calls target Nebraska schools, which occurred Thursday.
Just in the last two days there have been several states hit in multiple cities all at about the same time. I don’t want to sound conspiratorial, but it looks coordinated. Here are short reports that I have found from the most recent hoaxes:
Gering High School – District Officials say at approximately 8:30 A.M. MST, a Google-generated number called 9-1-1 reporting a student with a gun at Gering High School. Law enforcement were dispatched to the school immediately, and the district crisis plan procedures were put in place. Gering and Scottsbluff Public Schools were in lockdown status. SWAT Teams walk-through all GHS buildings and concluded the call was a hoax. By 9:28 AM, Captain Jason Rogers of the Gering Police confirmed that there was NO shooting at Gering High School.
Grand Island, March 2, 2023 at 8:50 A.M. CST – At Westridge Middle School, parents were already reporting police presence at the school. Captain Jim Duering with the Grand Island police department said by the time the call came into GIPS, law enforcement had already been alerted to the potential of the hoax.
rch 2, 2023 – A call came into the Hastings 911 Center where a person identified themselves as a teacher in a specific room at Hastings High School. The 911 center was immediately suspicious as the name of the teacher and the room number do not exist. The caller said there was an active shooter at the high school.
Kearney High School – On Thursday March 2, 2023, at 8:53 A.M. CST a 9-1-1 call was received by the Buffalo County Communications Center reporting a shooting at Kearney High School. Kearney Police were dispatched to the school along with the School Resource Officer who was already in the building and immediately confirmed there was no shooting or active threat.
Omaha South High School – Omaha PD responded to Omaha South High School this morning (March 2, 2023) for a report of a shooting. Once on scene, it was quickly determined that no shooting took place. The officers cleared the building to ensure there was no threat.
Columbus, Scotus Central Catholic High School – Multiple enforcement agencies are responding to a situation at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, Nebraska, on Thursday, March 2nd, 2023. According to the Columbus Police Department, the Scotus Central Catholic High School located at 1554 18th Ave, Columbus, NE, has been placed on a precautionary lockdown.
Lincoln Police received a phone call Thursday morning from someone falsely reporting an emergency at Lincoln High.
Valentine High School was put into lockdown for 45 minutes following a report of a school shooting that turned out to be false. The school activated its Standard Response Protocol at the high school and elementary school.
One news outlet also reported Fremont also had a threat, but I couldn’t find any additional information.
Bismark, March 2, 2023 10:00 A.M. CST – The Bismarck Police Department responded to an incident at Bismarck High School this morning, Thursday, March 2nd shortly before 10 a.m. CST. BHS received a threatening call, but the threat was not deemed ‘not credible’ by law enforcement officials. According to a local law enforcement officer, Mandan High School was also put on lockdown and it’s possible that Grand Forks and Fargo went on lockdown as well.
Richland, March 2, 2023 9:06 A.M. CST – Two Richland schools were placed on lockdown Thursday morning after a call came in about a possible gun on campus. Richland High School and neighboring Richland Upper Elementary School were locked down while Richland police and Rankin County sheriff’s deputies assessed the threat, school officials said. Several are being questioned in this case, so this may have been an actual threat.
Dover, March 2, 2023, 9:00 AM – At approximately 9:00 am, a Dover Police Department 911 dispatcher received a call regarding a potentially armed person at South Dover Elementary School. Out of an abundance of caution, the Dover Police Department and Capital School District staff placed South Dover Elementary School on lockdown for approximately 30 minutes. During the lockdown, the building and grounds were searched to eliminate any potential threats. We want to report that no weapons or other threats were found.
Lewes, March 2, 2023, 10:06 AM – Cape School District: We have been informed that there has been a threat called into Lewes Police Department where an individual has made a threat towards schools. There’s been a series of calls with the same message throughout the state to other districts and they are being investigated by law enforcement. At this point, it does not appear to be credible but as a precaution, we have placed our schools on a low-level lockdown and our emergency response procedures have been activated. There will also be an increase in police presence at all of our schools. Please do not report to the schools at this time. We will provide further information as it becomes available and will update the community within the next two hours.
Christina, March 2, 2023, 10:12 AM – Christina School District in New Castle County has ordered a shelter-in-place also due to the potential statewide safety concerns.
Newark, March 2, 2023, 10:18 AM – Newark Police Department
There is currently an increased Newark Police presence at schools in the City of Newark due to an anonymous threat received by the Newark Police Department. Similar threats have been received statewide. We have increased security at the schools as we investigate the validity of the threat and have been in contact with the Christina School District.
Millsboro, March 2, 2023, 10:39 AM – The Millsboro Police Department received a call claiming to pose a threat to Millsboro Middle School. Both East Millsboro and Millsboro Middle were immediately placed into a lockdown. Millsboro officers responded quickly and completed a through check of the school buildings and surrounding areas.
Smyrna, March 2, 2023, 10:59 AM – This morning, Smyrna Police received anonymous calls about threats to schools in our jurisdiction. Smyrna PD patrol officers as well as our on campus SROs responded and ensured all of our schools, children, and staff were safe.
Bardstown Middle School & High School, March 1, 2023 – At approximately 2:15, Bardstown Middle School and Bardstown High School were placed on a soft lockdown due to a call that came into local dispatch about a potential threat to students from an unnamed and unknown individual. BSC School Resource Office Andrew Riley and the Bardstown Police Department responded to the call and at this time have not discovered any credibility to the threat.
Barbourville, Central Elementary Public School, March 1, 2023 2:25 P.M. – Local law enforcement received a phone call stating that a shooting would take place at Central Elementary. Central Elementary and Knox Central were in lockdown until law enforcement completed their investigation clearing the school at 2:35 P.M.
El Dorado, March 1, 2023, 8:15 AM – The El Dorado School district said the call came in around 8:15 Wednesday morning from a google-generated phone number. The El Dorado police chief said a call of an active shooter at the high school initially came into city hall, and officers quickly responded.
Lawrence, March 1, 2023, 8:30 AM – Lawrence Police say a false call was made to Lawrence Free State High just before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police say the school resource officer at the school identified the call as a hoax, but police responded and are investigating the threat.
Wichita, March 1, 2023, 8:40 AM – Emergency crews were on scene at Wichita North Wednesday morning after a call was made about a possible active shooter at the school.
Colby, March 1, 2023 – In Colby, law enforcement was dispatched to the district and crisis procedures were put into place, but it was determined that the call was a hoax.
Topeka, March 1, 2023 – Emergency responders remain at Highland Park High School after reports of a possible shooting. The Topeka Police department indicated that the school and the surrounding area have been cleared and no threats to students or staff have been found.
Liberal, March 1, 2023 – Liberal also received a false call Wednesday morning. The caller claimed they were a specific teacher in a specific room at Liberal High School, but neither the teacher or the room number existed. Officers searched the school and found no evidence of a shooter.
Russell, March 1, 2023, 8:47 AM – Russell County 911 Communications received a phone call from a male with a heavy middle eastern accent claiming that there was a shooting at the high school. The caller stated that three (3) students had been shot in room #35, a math class, and the shooter had left the area.
Law enforcement officers from the Russell Police Department and Russell County Sheriff’s Office responded to Russell High School. The building administration was made aware of the alleged incident and placed the school into a lockdown so officers could search the building. After a thorough investigation by law enforcement, the school was released from its lockdown and normal activities resumed.
Manhattan, March 1, 2023, 9:15 a.m The Riley County Police Department confirmed that a hoax call was made to Manhattan High School’s west campus. A spokesperson for the department said a school resource officer responded quickly and found no threat. The spokesperson said that the caller said a shooting happened “in a room that did not exist at the high school.”
Garden City, March 1, 2023 9:15 A.M. – The GCPD Communications Center received a call of an active shooter at Garden City High School. The Garden City Police Department and local law enforcement, to include the Finney County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, and Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and other local first responder agencies responded accordingly and cleared the school and surrounding area.
Wellington, March 1, 2023, 9:30 AM – Wellington Schools said the call to the high school came at around 9:30 a.m. Police responded and quickly determined the call was false.
Junction City, March 1, 2023, 8:41 AM – A 911 call was made claiming there was an active threat at the Junction City High School. Dispatchers identified this call as a potential SWATing call and immediately dispatched officers and made contact with USD 475. Officers on the scene alongside school officials confirmed that there was no active threat to any schools within the district.
Fallon, February 16, 2023 11:00 A.M. – Shortly after 11:00 this morning, the Fallon Police Department received a school shooting threat that appeared to have originated from outside our area. The threat was of an imminent school shooting incident at Churchill County High School. All available officers responded immediately and ALL schools in the district were on lockdown while officers cleared and searched the scene for all involved.
Boulder, February 16, 2023 7:50 A.M. – Boulder High School in southern Nevada was locked down earlier Thursday for the second time in several months due to the fake threat call.
Elko, February 16, 2023 1:45 P.M. – An apparent false call was called into 911 making false claims of an active shooter at Elko High School. The school was cleared and deemed safe by local law enforcement within minutes and there is no threat at the school. They were able to track the call to out of the area.
Genoa, February 16, 2023 2:07 P.M. – The Douglas County School District received reports of a shooting in Genoa earlier in the day Thursday. As a precaution, they locked down all the schools in the district. After a thorough search of the area and the schools, no threat was found and the lockdowns were lifted.
Swatting suspects face a wide range of penalties for creating a false public alarm, depending on the situation:
- 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for a fourth-degree charge
- Three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine for a third-degree charge
- Five to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second-degree charge
We need to stay on guard. We can’t allow ourselves to become desensitized to school shootings.
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