Statewide “swatting” spree has SoCal schools in turmoil

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Several Southern California schools have been hit by false reports of armed gunmen on campus in recent weeks, while what appears to be a sharp increase in school “swatting” incidents across the country.

On Friday, Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana went on lockdown while police investigated an anonymous call reporting an armed suspect on campus.

The lockdown was lifted after a police investigation found no threat – and the caller referred to a classroom that doesn’t actually exist at the school. Officials say several other Orange County schools have also been hit by bogus threats.

Similar threats have been made at schools in Monrovia and Hollywood, as well as across the United States, in recent weeks bay area.

Schools in New Jersey were also hit by a wave of calls on Friday. Florida police departments responded to a series of calls Tuesday.

This fall, there appears to be a sharp rise in such incidents across the country as schools return to classes – many welcoming full campuses for the first of September as the pandemic kept many students at home.

An investigation by Wired magazine was identified more than 90 false reports in schools alone in the second half of September in the United States.

Many of the incidents appear to be linked, happened within minutes and may have come from the same person or group, the magazine said. The calls may have come from abroad, although investigators are still trying to determine the origin.

At the same time, some law enforcement officials also worry that social media trends are encouraging youth to make false threats.

Law enforcement officials in South Carolina earlier this month blamed a string of debt threats in that state on a TikTok challenge.

At least 18 schools received false shot calls last week, according to data from South Carolina WCIV/ABC4.

Swatting — or intentionally invoking a false threat at a school or other location — can lead to school disruptions and even dangerous situations, experts say. Armed officers don’t know what to expect when they arrive on the scene, and students and parents are in a state of dread.

Active shooter hoaxes in schools have serious consequences

In at least one incident, a gossip call resulted in death — and a long prison sentence for the Los Angeles man who called the hoax.

In December 2017, a bogus threat was delivered to the police in Wichita, Kansas.

Officers responding to the home mistakenly shot the resident, thinking he was reaching for a gun.

Later investigation revealed that the call was made as part of an online gamer pranking another, but using an outdated address for their intended destination.

Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles was later sentenced to 20 years in prison for making that call. Authorities said he has made several other swatting calls in the past.

Before the Wichita incident, Barriss had been accused of threatening several locations in California and Florida.

He was serving a stint in the Los Angeles County Jail for bomb threats against ABC7 and Los Angeles-area schools.

Tyler Barriss, the fatally beaten Kansas suspect, is being questioned in prison

SoCal calls

Earlier this week, Monrovia High School was threatened, resulting in the campus being placed on hold, as well as nearby Monroe Elementary, before an investigation found no threats.

In September, an anonymous caller falsely reported that six people were shot at Hollywood High School.

RELATED: Report of an active shooter at Hollywood High School is being ruled a ‘hoax,’ authorities say

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Statewide “swatting” spree has SoCal schools in turmoil

Laura Coffey

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