Swatting investigation underway after series of fake school shooter calls

(ABC 6 News) – For many schools in Minn., it was a terrifying day Wednesday for students, teachers and parents when news went out about a threat of an active shooter.

At least 14 schools have confirmed the fake shooter call, including Rochester, Austin and Albert Lea.

Now, an investigation is underway to determine who made these calls, inciting fear in so many people.

Local law enforcement are collaborating with the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on this investigation, with the possibility of the FBI getting involved as well.

According to the BCA, they have reason to believe all of the calls made across Minn. came from the same person, or same group.

This is because the voice in all the calls appear similar, the calls were relatively similar, and they have narrowed down an IP address. BCA Superintendent Drew Evans says, an IP address can be masked to disguise one’s identity in a multitude of ways.

While all of the calls had the same voice and presented the same threat of an active shooter, details in the calls were specific to each school district.

At Austin High School, the caller claimed that eight students had been injured from someone carrying a semi-automatic weapon. They specified the building and address, and even gave out a classroom number.

While it was a live person on the other end of the line, they were not responsive to dispatchers questions.

Minn. schools are the most recent to fall victim to fake school shooter calls. The BCA is trying to determine if these calls are connected to others happening across the country.

“This is something that’s coordinated, and was specific and scripted,” Evans said. “So, whether or not that’s a group that wishes to cause harm in our state, really just wants to do something sick to cause alarm in our communities, or other things, we don’t know at this point.”

While it was a hoax, law enforcement in the affected communities treated the situation as a reality.

“It’s such a large use of those resources and it’s beyond aggravating and frustrating knowing that it was ultimately just a hoax,” explained Lt. Ryan Lodermeier, with the Rochester Police Dep.

Lodermeier adding that with all of these resources in one place, there were less help and resources available for others in the community who may have needed help.

Police say it also has a ripple affect on everyone involved.

“If you consider what the students and what the teachers were going through when they get notice to lock down, because they’re told there’s a reported threat in the building….as responding officers it’s scary,” said Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik.

Making fake shooter threats is a serious offense.

“Anybody that chooses to engage in this: it’s not a joke, it’s not a hoax, it’s not something that should be done for any reason. This is really one of the more serious things you can do, unfortunately, because of what we have seen in schools across the United States,” Evans said.

The crime so serious, that it could come with multiple felony charges. In fact, if it is connected across state lines, it becomes a federal offense.

The investigation is ramping up efforts to determine the culprit behind the phone calls.

“It is a lot of technical analysis of the information available to us and then we’ll be working backwards through that. We work from the information we have and then we start working our way backwards to try and determine the origin of these calls,” Evans explained.

Real or fake, police say they are dedicated to keeping students safe.

“When parents send their kids to school here in Rochester, they are our kids,” said Lt. Lodermeier. “They’re our kids too, we think of them just the same way and we will do absolutely everything within our power to make sure they come home safe at the end of the day.”

If anyone has any information they are urged to report it to local law enforcement. To report suspicious activity directly to the BCA, you are encouraged to download their “See it, Say it, Send it” app.