LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — New York State police say there was a series of “swatting” incidents at schools across the state this week, including here in Western New York.
According to police, “all of the reports are unfounded.”
“The State Police is aware of swatting incidents that have occurred across the state, in which a caller states that there is an active shooter in a school,” they said.
Swatting is an informal term defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the action of making a false report of a serious emergency so that a SWAT team will go to a person’s home, by someone who wants to frighten, upset or cause problems for that person.”
Police are investigating these suspicious calls. Locally, police were seen responding in Lockport, Olean and Buffalo among other areas Thursday morning.
Lockport High School
Lockport High School was placed on lockdown after a school resource officer received word of a potential threat, which was later determined to be another incident of swatting, recently appointed Superintendent Dr. Mathis Calvin, III, shared during an afternoon conference.
Other schools and offices in the district took lockout measures to protect students as police investigated.
Earlier in the day, the school district posted a statement on its website, saying the plan was to dismiss high schoolers once the building was completely checked over:
Dear Parents or Guardians,
I am writing with another update on Lockport High School. At this time we are completing the building final check with police. This should be completed within the next hour. Once this check is completed we will release the school and our other schools from lockout and/or lockdown.
Please know, once the high school buildings safety check is completed, the high school will be dismissing all of its students. This should occur within the hour. All of our others school will continue to operate as normal for the rest of the day.
With that said, all students will be sent home as we would normally dismiss them. This means students who normally ride their buses will be sent home by bus and walkers will be released to do so. Police are in the area, along with district staff to support students with getting to their homes safely. This plan will allow for an orderly dismissal.
Accordingly, we are requesting that all parents meet their children at their homes instead of at the school. Please note, there will be no after school activities today.
Later this afternoon, I will be sharing more information on todays incident with the entire community.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through this matter.
Dr. Calvin spoke on Thursday afternoon, saying schools would be open like normal on Friday.
Prior to Dr. Calvin’s conference, Lockport Police Chief Steven Abbott told News 4 that they had been investigating a single call directed to the school. News 4 is working to get clarification about how the investigation began.
South Park High School
Further south into Erie County, police tell us there was a call that led to a police response at South Park High School, too.
“Buffalo police are investigating the incident at South Park High School and if it is linked to other swatting calls,” a city official told News 4.
Police had received a call around 10:40 a.m. claiming that an active shooter had shot multiple students in a bathroom at South Park, and a description of a shooter was also stated, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia shared during an afternoon press conference.
“Just because we had information that there were fake calls that were going on, it doesn’t change our response,” Gramaglia said. “Every school has to take this seriously … these are no joking matter.”
K-9 teams searched the building near South Park Avenue, during which a shelter-in-place procedure was in effect.
No weapons were located, and when all is said and done, police “believe it was a fake call,” a city official said.
You can view Gramaglia’s full press conference on the incident below.
Archbishop Walsh High School
Another western New York school in Cattaraugus County also fell victim to “swatting,” Olean police say. Officers there say they received a call around 11:20 a.m. reporting an alleged active shooter at Archbishop Walsh High School.
After searching the N. 24th Street school, police say no credible threat was found.
“We are still investigating this incident,” they said.
Silver Creek School District
The Silver Creek Central School District also received a swatting call Thursday, saying in a Facebook post that the school buildings were cleared and a shelter-in-place had been put into effect. Law enforcement later confirmed there was no active threat and normal activity resumed.
Around New York State
Toward Rochester, Nexstar contributor WROC says Brockport Central Schools received a call like this. Additionally, Brighton High School went into a “shelter-in-place procedure after being informed of a threat “pertaining to an active shooter,” WROC says.
Outside of the Western New York and the Finger Lakes regions, the FBI is also investigating swatting incidents in other parts of the state. They released the following statement during the morning:
“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.”Federal Bureau of Investigation
Last month, police responded to calls about an alleged active shooter at another Buffalo school — Nichols. After looking into it, a police spokesperson later said the incident appeared to have been another swatting incident.
Around that time, police said at least three other schools in New York received similar calls. They were in Batavia, Steuben County and somewhere downstate.
Even outside of New York, similar calls were coming in around that time. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia says they were also reported in Florida, Colorado and Kentucky.
116th District Assemblyman Scott Gray, who represents parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, has introduced legislation to make “swatting” a class E felony.
Hear what he said about it in the video below:
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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.