Brainerd among 8 Minnesota schools targeted by hoax shooting calls
The calls concerning Minnesota schools this week are reminiscent of a wave of similar calls made in September 2022.
BRAINERD — Brainerd High School was one of eight schools in Minnesota targeted by hoax shooting calls this week.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported the recent rash of calls is most likely the case of “swatting,” when a hoax call is made to emergency services to bring armed police officers, such as a SWAT team, to a specific home, place of business, or other location.
The Brainerd Police Department received a phone call at 11:41 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, of an individual who was going to the school with a firearm. Police responded to the call, along with officials from the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and other emergency support.
The building was put into a soft lockdown until law enforcement could confirm the campus and building were secure. The building resumed normal operations at 12:11 p.m.
“In every instance when the Brainerd Police Department receives a threat of violence involving one of our schools, we immediately implement our response plan,” Brainerd Deputy Police Chief John Davis said. “Even if, at the initial onset, we have information leading us to believe this could be a hoax, our priority is still an immediate response to assure safety and security at the school until we have had the ability to investigate the threat and determine how credible it is.”
The hoax calls in all eight instances Monday and Tuesday appeared to have been made using a voice-over IP service, which allows users to make phone calls over the internet, the BCA reported.
Bonney Bowman, a public information officer with the BCA, said it appears all the calls were made by the same person.
The calls, which appeared to come in alphabetical order by city, prompted emergency responses Monday and Tuesday at schools in Albert Lea, Alexandria, Austin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Ely and Eveleth. Additional schools in some of those areas were also put into soft lockdowns as a precaution.
Schools in Albert Lea, Alexandria, Austin and Bemidji were all reportedly threatened on Monday. The schools receiving threats on Tuesday were further down the alphabet.
The police chief in Eveleth said the caller who threatened an elementary school there with pipe bombs was difficult to understand and used broken English, Forum News Service reported.
The rash of calls prompted the BCA’s Minnesota Fusion Center to report threats of school violence to all law enforcement agencies across the state.
Our Minnesota Fusion Center is monitoring after eight hoax school shooting calls came in to 911 call centers around the state over the last two days. We believe the same person made all the calls. Learn more here: https://t.co/OzaHZHmVCW pic.twitter.com/PDE0qAzQME— Minnesota BCA (@MnDPS_BCA) February 28, 2023
Bowman said the Minnesota Fusion Center, a central repository for collecting and disseminating a variety of potential criminal data including threats to schools, was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. There is a fusion center in every state, she said.
“They realized there had been gaps in intel sharing that potentially could have prevented the attack,” on Sept. 11, Bowman said.
The calls concerning Minnesota schools this week are reminiscent of a wave of similar calls made in September 2022; those affected schools in Austin, Cloquet, Rochester and Mankato, among others.
Minnesota saw 27 hoax school shooting calls in 2022, including 17 in September 2022, the BCA reported. Incidents of mass hoax threats targeting schools also occurred nationally in waves.
“To date, none were found to be legitimate; however, law enforcement must still treat each incident seriously,” the release said.
The BCA implemented a statewide method for reporting threats of school violence in the state in 2021. Students, parents, and school professionals can use the See It, Say It, Send It app to send a tip to the BCA using their cell phones or other mobile devices. The BCA will notify local law enforcement and assist as needed with the response to criminal activity.
MATT ERICKSON, Editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5857.