Police investigating hoax active shooter threats at several schools

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:27 AM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Multiple area police departments and school districts are investigating after threats were called into several schools on Thursday morning.

The principal at Ben Franklin Middle School in Fargo says Red River Regional Dispatch received a call at 9:35 a.m. indicating an active shooter situation was happening at the school. The school initiated emergency response protocols and the building was checked by law enforcement, who determined there was no threat to the school.

North High School was also put into lockdown at 9:59 a.m. after dispatch audio indicates a man called and said he “was walking into the school with a rifle.”

“When we hear a call like that, we treat it as if it’s an actual call for service. You can imagine going to an active killer incident at those schools is a very stressful incident for us,” Fargo Police Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt said.

Police in Jamestown, Grand Forks and Bismarck responded to similar situations. The Jamestown Police Department received a report of an active shooter at Jamestown High School. The caller reported that he was the shooter, but officers were almost immediately able to determine there was no threat to the school. Out of an abundance of caution, the school district issued a shelter in place while officers walked through the building. An all clear was called within ten minutes of the original call.

Fargo Police say with the help of school resource officers already on-site as well as an abundance of technology, they were also able to quickly determine the calls were likely a hoax, but officials say you can never be too careful, especially when it comes to school safety.

“We took a third step in doing a clear of the school with a small amount of officers at each school just to make sure we weren’t missing anything,” Lt. Ahlfeldt said.

Lt. Ahfeldt says advancements in technology make cases like these difficult to crack, but he assures investigators across the state are working hard to find and arrest those on the other end of the phone.

“It’s very difficult when you’re talking about technology to track down where they’re coming from, who they are, but there are ways to do that, so that’s what’s happening right now,” Lt. Ahlfeldt said.

Bismarck High School sent a notice to families saying, “Do not tie up phone lines by calling 911 or the police or anyone at the school. Do not impede emergency responders by driving to the school.” Police in Bismarck also determined this threat was a hoax.

Our sister stations within the Gray Television network are reporting similar school threats made in Omaha and Hastings, Nebraska on Thursday.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is aware of eight hoax school shooting calls made to Minnesota 911 call centers over the past two days. All appeared to have come from the same individual, who used Voice Over IP to conduct the calls. The MNFC sent an alert to law enforcement across Minnesota for their situational awareness.

The FBI is assisting ND law enforcement with Thursday’s swatting incidents.