Hoax calls of shooting threats to Utah schools came from out of the country
Mar 29, 2023, 4:36 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:24 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — Police responded to multiple Utah high schools Wednesday due to calls of active shooters, but authorities have said the threats were not credible and were all tracked to one individual from outside of the country.
Individual agencies across the state said the threats were not credible and no students were in danger.
Police: Hoax targets several Utah schools with fake shooting threats
According to the Department of Public Safety, 13 schools in Utah received hoax calls, but schools within other states including Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also dealt with hoax calls Wednesday. DPS said they are not currently able to provide a list of the schools.
“Six, seven, eight of us maybe, and we were all huddled in there hiding in the corner and I was scared. You could hear the sirens,” Mandy Shepherd, a student at Spanish Fork High School, said. She was with several students, locking a door. “It was just very real. I was very scared.”
All calls were tracked to one male individual from a number that connects to an IP address outside of the country. However, DPS was not able to specify which country the IP address was tracked to.
The FBI is involved and DPS is working with local and federal partners to find out more information. All students were reported safe and all schools were secured.
“Whoever is responsible, I wish they would stop because it is not funny,” Nicole Hansen Johnson, a student at Ogden High School, said. “This is not a joke. They are taking this seriously and you are scaring everybody and everyone is panicking. It’s just ridiculous to take all this power and scare everybody like that. It’s stupid. There is no reason for it.”
“I feel like something has to be done,” Hunsaker said. “How many times do we have to have interviews with teachers about what’s happening?”
Typically, hoax threat cases are handled by local and state law enforcement, but the FBI often provides both resources and guidance in the investigations. Cases can end up with prosecution for federal crimes. Statistics for national hoax calls, often called swatting, cannot be provided and the FBI said many incidents are not reported.
A law enforcement analyst told KSL TV the effectiveness of the investigation could hinge in part on foreign police agencies, if in fact the calls did originate from some other nation and were not just routed through one.
“Under the emergency reporting laws, it’s a third-degree felony,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said. “Because it not only causes incredible disruption in terms of abuse of services, but it also causes disruption to families and parents and schools and those institutions.”
The FBI said in a statement:
The FBI is aware of the numerous swatting incidents wherein a report of an active shooter at a school is made. 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. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.
To protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we’re going to decline further comment.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also released a statement about the shooting threats Wednesday:
We’re aware of the multiple hoax calls claiming active shooter situations in various schools across our state. These calls are taken very seriously and are immediately looked into by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.
We appreciate the diligent work of local law enforcement in responding to these calls and commend the Utah Department of Public Safety for their work in coordinating with local and federal law enforcement and investigating the origins of these calls. We remind all Utahns to stay vigilant and be aware of updates from your local officials.