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Police respond to at least 7 hoax shooting reports at ND, SD schools Thursday

Multiple hoaxes were called into law enforcement agencies in the Dakotas on Thursday, some reporting multiple fatalities while others reporting someone shooting at a school building.

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Area law enforcement, including B.J. Maxon of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Dept., respond to Thursday's lockdown at Red River High School.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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Multiple reports of active shooters at schools in North and South Dakota Thursday, Oct. 13, turned out to be false alarms, though each evoked a quick and strong response from law enforcement.

During the first half of the school day, at least seven school districts across the two states were sent into lockdown after authorities received word there may be an active shooter in the building. All reports turned out to be a hoax.

‘Room-by-room search’ confirms shooter report at Grand Forks Red River was hoax

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There were no weapons, no injuries and "everyone is safe" at Grand Forks Red River High School after the school was targeted with a hoax threat on Thursday morning that appears to be part of a concerted effort in the region and, possibly, across the nation.

A number of officers from the Grand Forks Police Department, the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office and the Highway Patrol converged on the school shortly after 10:30 a.m. CDT, following a call of an active shooter at Red River. Within minutes, there were more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles at the school. Soon thereafter, concerned parents began arriving at the school as well.

From the Grand Forks Herald: 'Everyone is safe' at Grand Forks Red River; other Dakotas schools also get hoax active-shooter calls

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"Officers received a call through dispatch of an active shooter at RRHS. Officers immediately responded and began checking the school," Lt. Andrew Stein wrote in an initial statement to the Herald, while acknowledging the possibility that the call was a hoax. "We ask that people stay away from the area until the all clear is given."

At 11:23 a.m. CDT, police declared there was no threat.

"The Grand Forks Police Department has completed a room-by-room search of the school. The GFPD did not find anything in their search. Everyone is safe," district officials told Red River parents in an email at 11:42 a.m. "School will continue this afternoon and additional counselors will be on staff."

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Law enforcement officials talk to a crowd of concerned parents near the high school.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Active shooter report prompts district-wide lockdown in Jamestown

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Roughly an hour after multiple active shooter reports were fielded in South Dakota, a similar report came into the Stutsman County Communications Center.

The report came in at approximately 10:37 a.m., claiming there was a shooter at Jamestown High School. Though Jamestown Chief of Police Scott Edinger said he was aware that a number of schools had been receiving similar reports, authorities quickly worked to establish a perimeter around the school.

From the Jamestown Sun: All schools except Jamestown High School have been removed from lockdown

In a text to parents, the school district said the threat was not verified by law enforcement, though a sweep of the building was to be conducted.

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"While the potential threat was not verified by law enforcement, and there is no immediate threat, a systemic sweep is being conducted to ensure the safety and security of all students and staff," the text message said. "After consultation with law enforcement and, out of an abundance of caution, all schools have currently been placed on lockdown. Updates will be provided very shortly as additional information is provided by law enforcement."

As of 2:15 p.m. Thursday, all school buildings except for the high school had been released from lockdown.

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Scenes from the false shooting that took place Thursday morning, Oct. 13, 2022, at the Mitchell High School.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Bismarck police respond to multiple schools in search of shooter

BISMARCK, N.D. — Police in Bismarck checked on multiple high schools in the area to determine the location of a hoax call.

Authorities say a call was placed at approximately 10:45 a.m. Thursday reporting an active shooter to “an area high school.” The call gave a specific room number and “seemed very real.” Over a dozen officers responded to the location, despite an on-site school resource officer reporting no active shooter at their location.

After no evidence of a shooter was found, authorities began checking other schools throughout Bismarck before learning the call may have been part of the wider hoax.

“Bismarck Police will always treat these calls as being real, until we determine that they aren’t,” Lieutenant Luke Gardiner said in a statement. “Thankfully this call was fake and nobody was injured or killed.”

Mitchell High School cleared just seven minutes after shooter report

MITCHELL, S.D. — Aware that active shooter hoaxes had already taken place in other South Dakota high schools on Thursday, Mitchell High School Principal Joe Childs was prepared when his building was targeted next.

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Police in Mitchell said they received an active shooter report involving “several” fatalities at approximately 9:21 a.m. It took roughly 2 minutes for officers to arrive on scene — and another 5 for police to determine the call was a hoax.

From the Mitchell Republic: Mitchell among at least 5 schools in South Dakota to receive hoax active shooting calls

Out of an abundance of caution, Childs took to the school’s intercom to inform students and staff that Mitchell High School had been targeted as part of the hoax striking the state. He noted the school never went into a full lockdown because of how quick law enforcement officials arrived and cleared the building.

“It certainly was an anxious moment, but maybe because of how it happened or the timeline it happened on, by the time we got the call from the local police, we were in school and we’re out and about and have a good understanding about what’s going on in our building at that time. There was nothing unusual happening this morning other than we got that call,” Childs said. “It was nice to know that our local law enforcement was on point and here so quickly, and we do have a number of school employees that were swift in taking action.”

Sioux Falls’ second-largest high school sent into lockdown after shooter report

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — High schools in four of South Dakota’s six largest cities entered lockdown in the early morning hours after shooting threats were phoned into various law enforcement agencies.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., law enforcement officials in Sioux Falls received a phone call claiming an active shooter situation was occurring at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School, the second-largest of the four public high schools in the city.

Despite a school resource officer’s indication that the report appeared to be unfounded, law enforcement personnel from the Sioux Falls Police Department, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office and federal agents poured into the area as students were asked to shelter-in-place during the course of the investigation.

After authorities found no threat at the school, the Sioux Falls Police Department took to social media to confirm the call was a hoax.

“The school was checked and it was found the call was a hoax. There was no shooter and no threat to any students or staff,” a Facebook post reads.

The call was placed from outside the Sioux Falls area, authorities said.

Shooter call prompts sweep of alternative high school in Rapid City

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Roughly one hour after the call was received in Sioux Falls, police across the state in Rapid City received a similar call.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. MDT, authorities were dispatched to Rapid City High School, an alternative learning school with an enrollment of 302, for a report of an individual shooting at the school.

Don Hedrick, chief of the Rapid City Police Department, said multiple law enforcement agencies quickly jumped into action to verify the authenticity of the report and ensure students and staff were safe.

“We were getting a report from one caller that somebody was here shooting at the school. That caused a major law enforcement response to the school,” Hedrick said in a video posted to his department’s Facebook page. “Folks from the Rapid City Police Department; Pennington County Sheriff’s Office; Game, Fish and Parks; Highway Patrol — and probably others as well — responded here to ensure that the school was safe.”

Hedrick said that a “very thorough” search of the school was conducted. No evidence was discovered to suggest a shooting had taken place.

“At this moment, this all appears to be a called-in hoax,” Hedrick said. “We’ve noticed this term that's been utilized lately called swatting, where people call in a situation like this and it brings in a very large law enforcement response.”

Hedrick said the agencies involved in Thursday’s response are now working with federal agencies to see if the call to authorities in Rapid City was connected to other calls placed across the state.

‘No evidence' of shooter at Brookings High School

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The second call to authorities in South Dakota came in shortly before 8:45 a.m., when police in Brookings were informed of an active shooting scene at the city’s lone high school.

According to a news release from the Brookings Police Department, a school resource officer on scene observed no evidence of a shooter, but the school was sent into lockdown until authorities with the police department and the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office could confirm no threat existed.

“A comprehensive sweep of the school and campus was conducted and no evidence of an active shooter or any injuries were found,” the Brookings Police Department said in a Facebook post. “At no time were the students and staff at the Brookings High School in any danger.”

Authorities say the caller appeared to have a foreign accent, adding that they are aware of other similar calls occurring across the state. An investigation into the origin of the call will be conducted in conjunction with state and federal authorities.

Thursday's hoax calls reminiscent of late-September reports in Minnesota

The calls to multiple law enforcement agencies in the Dakotas are similar to those placed across Minnesota on Sept. 21, when police in Rochester, Cloquet, Mankato and multiple other Minnesota cities received various reports of individuals with a gun on school grounds.

The calls were deemed “despicable” by authorities, who responded quickly to each report.

““It just really makes me sad that somebody would be willing to do this and cause that kind of grief,” Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson said after responding to a call at Lourdes High School in Rochester.

Across more than 10 calls, each one turned out to be a hoax, with no danger found at schools in Austin or Fergus Falls, either, according to a statement from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension via social media.

“Our Minnesota Fusion Center is tracking these reports and keeping local law enforcement apprised of the situation,” the statement said.

The BCA asked students and community members to continue to notify law enforcement and school officials of suspected threats to schools.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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