BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Just after 8 a.m., Buffalo police responded to calls about an alleged active shooter at Nichols School.
Multiple police vehicles responded to the scene, and were seen outside the school.
As a precaution, the school was temporarily placed on lockdown and police canvassed the school with K-9 units. Working with NFTA police and the Department of Homeland Security, it took about two hours to clear the school. No evidence of an active threat was found.
“I think officers were assessing pretty quick that this was a fake call. It didn’t change their posture. It didn’t change what they were doing,” Commissioner Gramaglia told News 4.
A police spokesperson later said that the incident appears to be a swatting incident, a form of prank call designed to bring a police response to an innocent target, which could include the SWAT team.
“It’s no different in my opinion than yelling fire in a movie theater when there isn’t. It can seriously result in people getting injured,” Jeff Rinaldo, partner at Vista Security Group, said.
Because of the nature of the call and the massive law enforcement response, the threats can pose danger to both officers and the public.
“The police are responding under the expectation that there is a person actively with a gun or a person actively engaged in shooting people, so their response is heightened. The victim, who has no idea that the police are on their way, don’t respond accordingly. Their reaction doesn’t match what the police expect. It just creates a very dangerous situation where a tragedy can occur,” Rinaldo added.
District Attorney John Flynn says making a terroristic threat is a serious offense in New York State, but the ‘swatting’ call to the Nichols School appears to be from outside the area.
“If the it came from another state, which this one appears to have happened, then we get the FBI involved and they investigate,” Flynn said.
Three other schools in New York received similar calls, Buffalo police said. These schools were in Batavia, Steuben County and somewhere downstate, according to Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, who provided an update Friday morning. You can watch Gramaglia’s full press briefing below.
Batavia police later released information that a threat was made against John Kennedy Intermediate School around 7:39 a.m. Friday. Officers responded to the school, which is on winter break this week, and found the threat not to be credible.
The threats in Western New York were just a few of the many made across the country on Friday. Commissioner Gramaglia says similar fake calls were made in Florida, Colorado and Kentucky.
“Even though Batavia schools are on break for the week, officers from both departments and the New York State Police immediately responded on scene as any type of threat of this nature is taken very seriously,“ Batavia police wrote in the release. “As a precaution, officers checked all the schools in the city school district and schools across Genesee County to ensure the safety of students and staff.”
Buffalo police are working with New York State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as they seek to learn more about what happened. No arrests have been made.
Unlike many schools in the area, class was in session for students at Nichols, which is a private school on Amherst Street in north Buffalo. Students there were on break Monday and Tuesday.
Nichols released a statement to News 4 around 9:45 a.m.
“This morning, the Buffalo Police received a threat to the Nichols School and immediately came to campus and initiated a lockdown,” a representative of Nichols said. “They canvased the campus and buildings with personnel and K9 units, all of which have been cleared. Our safety protocols worked as intended, and the lockdown has been lifted.”
D.A. Flynn says calls like this are common, but should not be repeated.
“We’re probably going to catch you. Unless you’re real sophisticated, don’t do it,” Flynn concluded.
No suspect has been arrested in this case. The investigation is ongoing.
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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.