Austin likely part of a rash of ‘swatting’ calls

Published 12:27 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A number hoax shooting calls issued to other Minnesota schools including Rochester Lourdes

 

Austin Public Schools was one of several schools around the state and the country on Wednesday to receive a hoax call of an active shooter.

Austin Public Schools went into lockdown late in the morning on Wednesday from 11:20 a.m. to 12:22 p.m.

In a release to parents, Dr. Joey Page said that the school had actively responded to the threat and was collaborating with emergency responders.

“At this time, we ask that parents stay where they are and remain available to receive updates and instructions as needed,” Page had said in the release.

According to Pacelli Catholic Schools Principal Kane Malo, students in its school across the street from Austin High School sheltered in place until the lockdown was lifted. During incidents like Wednesday’s, Pacelli generally follows many of the same protocols that AHS does.

While the call of an active shooter is likely related to a number of threats around the country and in Minnesota, though Page couldn’t 100% confirm the connection in Austin.

“There’s been a lot of sharing with that today,” Page said Wednesday. “I think it fits the profile, but I think we’ll leave it with law enforcement on the origin.”

Austin Police Chief David McKichan released a statement in which he said that dispatch received a call at around 11:20 a.m. reporting an active shooter at Austin High School.

“While our agency was aware of same/similar incidents occurring in other jurisdictions, it did not alter our response to this type of call,” McKichan said. “The Austin Police Department and Mower County Sheriff Office staff quickly deployed to the high school to assist our site School Resource Officer.”

The statement went on to read that police responded to the specified spot and upon finding nothing, police fanned out to further investigate, again finding nothing.

“We appreciate the school staff’s, student’s, and public’s patience while that was ongoing,” McKichan’s statement read. “Staff and students at the schools did a fantastic job in following their procedures and letting us clear the building. We appreciate the help we received from other agencies as well.”

Other Minnesota active shooter calls were reported as being placed with Rochester Lourdes, Mankato West and Cloquet. Later in the day Albert Lea also reported a call.

“Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is aware of multiple swatting incidents involving active shooter events or mass casualties at schools across Minnesota,” said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in a media release. “Local law enforcement are responding. No incidents have turned out to be real.”

The BCA said that the calls have been known to include the following:

• Specific classroom number;

  Sometimes a number of students injured; and

  Sometimes specified the use of a specific weapon

The release also went on to say that the Minnesota Fusion Center was tracking the reports and keeping local law enforcement apprised of the situation.

The BCA said: “Swatting involves making a prank call to law enforcement services in an attempt to bring a large law enforcement response to a particular address.”