Police receive false reports of active shooters at several Nebraska schools

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Police departments across Nebraska received false reports of active shooters at several schools on Thursday.

In Hastings, police say a person called 911 claiming they were a “teacher in a specific room” at the high school.

The caller said there was an active shooter inside.

Police say the 911 center was suspicious of the call since that teacher and room number did not exist at the school.

“It seemed different than most calls,” Capt. Raelee Van Winkle said. “There was no background noise. The caller repeated himself multiple times, almost as if he was reading from a script. He was very hard to understand.”

But due to the nature of the call, Hastings High School was immediately placed in lockdown, and all officers were sent to the school.

Officers went room to room but didn’t find a shooter.  Hastings Police have now begun an investigation into the non-credible threat.

Lincoln Public Schools spokeswoman Mindy Burbach told Channel 8 that someone called in a false report of an active shooter at a high school Thursday morning.

Burbach did not disclose which school received the non-credible threat.

LPS’s full statement from Superintendent Paul Gausman:

“We can confirm that Lincoln Police received a phone call this morning that reported an emergency at one of our schools. Lincoln Police working with our staff were able to quickly determine the call was a hoax and part of a national trend aimed at disrupting the learning environment in our schools. We appreciate the continued collaboration and communication with our law enforcement partners. Earlier this week our security department was already aware of the national trend and working with law enforcement on how to best manage ‘swatting’ incidents which allowed us to be prepared for today’s event. It is important we do not further contribute to the disruption created by these bad actors.”

Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, Kearney High School and Omaha South High School received similar calls on Thursday, according to authorities.

The Kearney Police Department said on Facebook that there has been a trend of “hoax active shooter calls” this week.

“The voice is typically a male of Middle Eastern descent and claims to be in a school building witnessing a shooting,” police said in the Facebook post.

Chief Byan Waugh said police have to treat threats “as though they are real, until we determine otherwise.”

“The biggest frustration I have is that resources are wasted on and perhaps taken away from a true emergency where we could be of help,” he said.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the Nebraska State Patrol said there’s been a trend of “swatting” calls, in which a caller will make fake threats to police to create panic and draw their attention.

Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the patrol, said these hoax calls targeting schools have been growing in states across the country, including Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Texas and California.

“There have been distinct similarities in the calls received by schools in other states, such as the use of VOIP technology to mask the caller’s identity and location, using or mocking a foreign accent, mispronouncing school or town names, and pretending that they are hiding inside the school themselves,” the patrol said.

Bolduc said that on Monday, the patrol released a bulletin to law enforcement in Nebraska to prepare them for this possibility.

He said these calls are a waste of time and resources to authorities, but it’s also an opportunity to test the systems they have in place.

Bolduc said those responsible will be punished for “the disruption and misuse of emergency services.”

Gov. Jim Pillen also spoke at the press conference, saying that while no one was hurt, these calls still caused fear and trauma to those involved.

“A lot of families, a lot of kids, a lot of teachers have been victimized,” he said. “It’s 100% unacceptable behavior.”

He praised “everybody across our state” for working to “protect our kids perfectly.”

The patrol is helping local law enforcement agencies and school districts that receive these calls and is working with the FBI to find out who is behind them.

Anyone with information on the origin of the calls is asked to call the Nebraska Information Analysis Center at 888-580-6422.

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