TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Law enforcement agencies investigated multiple possible “swatting” calls at schools across Florida Tuesday morning, including in the Bay area.
According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, a hoax shooting threat was called to the St. Pete Catholic Campus. Authorities responded to the school but said there are no active shooters and no children are in danger.
“Parents who want to pick up their child anyway should go to the shopping center at 9th Ave N. and 66th St. for more information,” the departments said.
Pinellas Park High School also had a call that was believed to be a false threat, according to police.
Regina Goodman was emotional on the way to Pinellas Park High School, one of the schools on lockdown.
“I can’t even imagine if something happens to my child,” Goodman said. “My heart dropped.”
Her 16-year-old son called her, believing there was an active shooter at his school.
“I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to just I wish my vehicle had wings on it so I could just fly there,” Goodman said. “My nerves were absolutely shot and at that moment I’m just like, God, please protect my child. Protect the children that are there.”
When she got to the school, parents were running, hugging each other and had more questions than answers.
“There were kids that were just crying and laying it on each other’s shoulders, holding hands,” Goodman said. “It was awful.”
“This is a very serious situation,” St. Petersburg Police Department PIO Yolanda Fernandez said. “Misinformation that was spread all through social media that people were being held hostage. It just spread like wildfire and got out of control.”
Goodman is breathing a sigh of relief and now wants whoever is responsible held accountable.
“What reason would you want to put parents through this terrifying experience of possibly not being able to save their child,” Goodman said. “It makes you feel so helpless when you hear something like that and with the world and the way it’s going, you never know what people are capable of.”
Authorities in Sarasota County were also put on alert after a suspicious call was made. Sarasota Police officers responded to Riverview High School to assist Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies and Sarasota School officials to investigate the call.
In other parts of Florida, the Miami-Dade School Board said there was a hox threat called in about multiple schools, however, there was no active threat.
A helicopter feed from NBC affiliate WTVJ showed students gathered outside one of the schools as officers investigated the threat.
Meanwhile, in Broward County, the Pembroke Pines Police Department said West Broward High School was put on lockdown after a possible swatting call. However, a search of the school showed no threat, securing the location.
“We are aware of additional swatting calls which have affected other schools throughout the area, and may be connected to the incident at West Broward High,” Pembroke Police PD said on its Twitter.
Boca Raton police said there was also a report of an armed individual at Boca Raton High School.
However, after dispatching numerous officers, police found there was no evidence of a shooter.
A spokesperson for FBI Tampa said the agency was aware of the swatting calls:
The FBI is aware of 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 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.FBI Tampa
This isn’t the first time Florida schools have been targeted by fake shooting calls. In mid-September, schools in Lee County and south Florida were locked down due to these fake “swatting” calls.
Swatting is a practice in which someone calls 911 to an address to illicit a large police response, taking its name from SWAT. In some situations, these calls can turn deadly when police believe the person they are being called on is a threat.