Multiple threats were made against schools across the United States on Monday leading to a mass evacuation in what has been deemed the latest incident of “swatting” against schools, ABC News is reporting.
In recent months, hoaxers who usually play games online have opted for high-tech identity-disguising tools and proxy servers to anonymously intimidate schools on the Internet or in phone messages using electronic voices to trigger massive emergency responses — a tactic known as “Swatting” because the hoax usually results in a SWAT team showing up.
The latest swatting incident targeted schools in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New York, Wisconsin, Maine, Delaware, Washington, and Minnesota.
Over 26 schools in the United Kingdom also shut down, as well.
School threats could be latest in ‘swatting’ https://t.co/zjtKlRXZni pic.twitter.com/Cmhexna5U9
— My Statesman (@MyStatesman) May 24, 2016
In the U.K., several schools received a recorded call from a mysterious voice that lasted 90 seconds. The voice had vowed that shrapnel would “take children’s heads off.” Most of the calls had come in around 10 a.m.
In the same vein, the recorded calls in America which posed a bomb threat came in between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. All the phone threats were made against elementary, middle, and high schools. Some of the schools refused to evacuate school premises, instead opting to put all buildings on lockdown.
— Danny Spewak (@DannySpewakWGRZ) May 23, 2016
Others evacuated, but resumed their classes after law enforcement authorities failed to discover any explosives or detect any perceived threats. A statement from the FBI encouraged the public to remain eagle-eyed and report any suspicious activities that could pose a threat to public safety as quickly as possible.
Officials have described the threats as automated calls, and at least two of the affected schools — Ben Franklin Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota, and Lakewood High School on the outskirts of Denver — acknowledged that the calls came in before noon local time. Students at the Murray High School outside Salt Lake City were told to go home, as dogs sniffing for bombs were brought in.
In Minnesota, Forest Lake Elementary was evacuated around 12:15 p.m. while two elementary schools in Colorado — Cherokee Trail Elementary in Parker and Liberty Point Elementary in Pueblo West — were also evacuated. Cherokee Trail is the same district where two 16-year-old girls, Sienna Johnson and Brooke Higgins, are accused of plotting a massacre similar to the Columbine shootings in 1999, according to the Guardian.
This is not the first time that swatting threats have been recorded against the United States. In 2014, Matthew Tollis, then 24, made bomb threats against schools in Connecticut, Texas, and Massachusetts. He was sentenced to a year in prison, according to The Newark Star-Ledger. Tollis was part of a clandestine group of Xbox gamers who called themselves “TCOD” (TeAM CrucifiX or Die.) He pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in the malicious dispersal of false information. After concluding his prison term, he is currently serving three more years of supervised release and is also expected to put in 300 hours of community service.
Additionally, a Canadian teenager was arrested for a slew of swatting incidents in the United States, according to the Daily Mail. The teen, who cannot be named because he was a juvenile at the time of his crimes, targeted Florida, Connecticut, California, and New York. In a series of threats against a high school in Florida, he had said he would start killing students at the school unless he received a large amount of money. The threat led to an intensive search and evacuation that lasted three hours. Police are also linking him to repeatedly taunting the FBI on Twitter.
[Image via Shutterstock/bibphoto]