False reports of school shooters prompt lockdowns across Puget Sound

Nov 22, 2022, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:53 pm
Law enforcement and first responders participate in a regional active shooter training. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Getty Images)
(Staff photo by Derek Davis/Getty Images)

A series of false reports about active school shootings, known as “swatting,” occurred around the Puget Sound region Tuesday morning, prompting school lockdowns and, in some cases, evacuations.

This happened in Thurston, Snohomish, Pierce, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Deputies said the call came in before 9 a.m. that there was an active shooter at Rochester High School. Multiple law enforcement agencies rushed to the scene and swept the building, finding no threat and no one with injuries.

Deputies believe this bogus call is connected to another one at Tacoma’s Lincoln High School on Tuesday.

The Mount Vernon Police Department (MVPD) dispatched to Mount Vernon High School Tuesday morning after receiving a report that multiple students had been shot in a classroom. The MVPD determined the report was a “swatting” incident, and no students were harmed.

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Swatting refers to a hoax call placed to 911 that falsely reports an emergency such as an armed intruder, active shooting, or another critical incident that necessitates a large and immediate response by law enforcement officers and other public safety workers, possibly including a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO).

“These false alarms are far from harmless,” said NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady in a press release. “They require high-speed responses with emergency lights and sirens that increase risks for responders and the public. They also divert limited public safety resources from other community needs and increase anxiety among students and others. These are some of the reasons that NASRO and Safe and Sound Schools decided it was important to provide guidance to SROs and school administrators.”

NASRO has even published an overview ahead of the school year on how to deal with and prevent instances of swatting.

Law enforcement is characterizing these swatting calls as “hoaxes,” but the FBI is currently investigating.

“We’re very grateful that they’re so responsive and obviously the response has been pretty consistent from the region,” said Chris Reykdal, the Superintendent of Washington State Public Schools. “It is also deeply troubling that anyone would think this is appropriate or funny or humorous in any way.”

Reykdal advised people to listen to law enforcement school officials instead of any speculation on social media to find factual and accurate information.

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Law enforcement officials in South Carolina blamed a TikTok challenge in September for a series of school threats in the state.

“Unfortunately, this is mental health damage perpetrated by someone or some group that is harmful and [required] a huge consumption of law enforcement resources,” Reykdal said. “These are not funny and anyone perpetrating this is doing real damage to young people, educators, parents, and communities. And I hope law enforcement, I know they’ll take it seriously. I hope that if they can find out who was behind this, that there is a full pursuit here to hold them accountable.”

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False reports of school shooters prompt lockdowns across Puget Sound