(ABC 6 News) – For many Minnesota schools, it was a terrifying day Wednesday for students, teachers and parents when news broke of an active shooter threat.
At least 14 schools have confirmed the fake shooter call, including Rochester, Austin and Albert Lea.
Now an investigation is underway to determine who made these calls, sparking fear in so many.
Local law enforcement is working with the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on this investigation, with the possibility that the FBI may also be involved.
According to the BCA, they have reason to believe that all of the calls made in Minnesota were from the same person or group.
Indeed, the voice of all calls sounds similar, the calls were relatively similar, and they reduced an IP address. According to BCA Superintendent Drew Evans, an IP address can be masked to disguise its identity in multiple ways.
While all of the calls had the same voice and presented the same threat of an active shooter, the details of the calls were specific to each school district.
At Austin High School, the caller claimed that eight students were injured by someone carrying a semi-automatic weapon. They specified the building and the address, and even gave a class number.
While it was a live person on the other end of the line, they weren’t answering questions from the dispatchers.
Minnesota schools are the latest to fall victim to fake school shooter calls. The BCA is trying to determine if these calls are connected to others occurring across the country.
“It’s something that’s coordinated and specific and scripted,” Evans said. “So whether or not it’s a group that wants to cause harm in our state, really wants to do something sick to alarm our communities, or other things, we don’t know at this point.”
While it was a hoax, law enforcement in affected communities treated the situation as reality.
“It’s such a use of these resources and it’s beyond aggravation and frustration to know that it ended up being just a hoax,” explained Lt. Ryan Lodermeier, of the Rochester Police Department.
Lodermeier added that with all of these resources in one place, there was less help and resources available for other members of the community who might have needed help.
Police say it also has a ripple effect on everyone involved.
“If you consider what students and teachers went through when they received the lockdown notice, because they were told there was a reported threat in the building…as responding officers, it’s scary,” Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik said.
Making false threats to the shooter is a serious offence.
“Anyone who chooses to engage in this: it’s not a joke, it’s not a hoax, it’s not something that should be done for any reason. It really is one of the most serious things you can do, unfortunately, because of what we’ve seen in schools across the United States,” Evans said.
The crime is so serious that it could lead to multiple felony charges. In fact, if connected across state lines, it becomes a federal offense.
The investigation is stepping up its efforts to determine the culprit behind the phone calls.
“It’s a lot of technical analysis of the information we have and then we’ll work backwards. We work from the information we have, and then we start going back to try to figure out where those calls are coming from,” Evans explained.
True or false, the police say they are dedicated to student safety.
“When parents send their children to school here in Rochester, they are our children,” Lt. Lodermeier said. “They are our children too, we think of them the same way and we will do absolutely everything in our power to make sure they come home safe and sound at the end of the day.”
If anyone has any information, they are encouraged to report it to local law enforcement. To report suspicious activity directly to the BCA, we encourage you to download their “See it, Say it, Send it” app.