Schools across Nebraska receive hoax shooting threats

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 11:45 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KTIV/WOWT) - Several false reports of school shootings have been placed to 911 call centers across Nebraska and the country Thursday morning. The Nebraska State Patrol said there is no credible information that any such school shooting has taken place in Nebraska.

The hoax calls were placed to schools in Lincoln, Omaha, Hastings, Grand Island, Kearney, Columbus and Fremont Thursday. These are usually called “swatting” calls. And swatting is when a prank call is made in an attempt to bring a large response from law enforcement. In Nebraska, it is considered a crime.

Nebraska law enforcement and school officials have gone on record to say nobody was hurt or in any danger during these calls Thursday.

“Fortunately, our schools and our law enforcement agencies across the state responded appropriately,” said NSP Col. John Bolduc during a news conference Thursday. “There was a disruption in learning today, but the good news is our kids are safe, learning is continuing. We will gather as much information as we can from these incidents and conduct a thorough investigation to see if we can determine from where these calls originated and hold people accountable.”

Bolduc said that in the aftermath of these calls, they received reports of students texting their parents “I’m afraid,” and said that students and teachers began barricading and locking doors.

“These are the appropriate responses, but the fear and trauma that has resulted from this criminal action is almost incomprehensible,” said Bolduc.

KTIV reached out to several northeast Nebraska schools to see if any of them received these calls. We have confirmed that Emerson-Hubbard Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Wayne Community Schools, Ponca Public Schools and the South Sioux Community School District have not received any swatting calls.

We wanted to let you know about a hoax situation that has been making the rounds in Colorado, Kansas, and now here in Nebraska.

A trend of hoax active shooter calls have been hitting 9-1-1 call centers this week. The voice is typically a male of Middle Eastern descent and claims to be in a school building witnessing a shooting.

Several schools in Nebraska (Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings, Fremont and Lincoln) received these calls this morning. Many of the calls are going to 9-1-1 call centers, but a school (not here) did get a direct hoax call this morning.

Please know these calls are unsubstantiated and phony. Should we receive one of these calls we will work with local law enforcement to investigate all threats per our standard protocol.

A message South Sioux City Superintendent Lance Swanson sent to district staff.

According to the NSP, earlier this week the Nebraska Information Analysis Center provided a bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the state and the Nebraska Department of Education regarding a trend of swatting calls. The bulletin reported that several states this year have been receiving swatting calls. That bulletin also advised local agencies to be prepared in the event the calls target Nebraska schools.

Officials say there have been “distinct similarities” in the calls received by schools in other states, such as the use of 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 NSP is helping local law enforcement agencies and school districts investigate these calls. Anyone with information regarding the origin of these calls is urged to call NIAC at 888-580-6422 or submit an online tip at the NIAC Suspicious Activity Report site

“It’s really really important that we hold these people accountable,” said Gov. Jim Pillen during a news conference Thursday, encouraging anyone who might hear “whispers” of information getting passed around to call it into the NIAC tip line.

Similar swatting calls were also reported Thursday in Bismarck, N.D., and in Fargo, S.D. Other such incidents were recently reported in Michigan, a cluster in Minnesota, and several in Grand Junction, Colo., as well.

Our sister station WOWT contributed to this article.