Swatting incidents hit at least 9 Connecticut schools; triggers massive response in Stamford
Law enforcement agencies across the state responded to several schools for swatting incidents Friday morning as thousands of police officers gathered in East Hartford for the joint funeral of two Bristol police officers killed in the line of duty.
Calls to 911 falsely reported an active shooter and multiple injuries in at least nine schools, including three in Fairfield County—Stamford High School, Staples High School in Westport, and Harding High School in Bridgeport. Now, investigators from the different communities are working with the FBI to try and figure out who was behind the hoax.
The potential threat at Stamford High School was reported at 8:55 a.m., triggering a massive response from police and sending the school into lockdown mode.
“They just like rushed us into the classrooms,” said student Briana Mills.
“They locked the doors. Teacher said it was a lockdown. I thought it was a drill until it was actually for real,” added student Matthew Aguirre.
So did Kalesha McGhee, who also attends Stamford High School. “But then I heard like the security guards, they were yelling at kids to get in classes and then we heard a lot of sirens outside,” said McGhee.
“When I realized it was real, you know, got into the back of the class, tried to hide a bit,” student Chanel Hall recounted.
Students told News 12 there were a lot of officers on scene, including the SWAT team, along with fire department personnel and medics.
An email went out to parents about the current situation and the safety measures that had been taken.
“Every single public safety agency was put in place and swarmed the building to ensure safety. All protocols were followed,” explained Bridget Fox, chief of staff to Stamford’s mayor. Fox said the mayor’s office hosted an active shooter drill in partnership with Stamford public schools and the entire public safety community in August, which she believed helped in this incident.
A sweep of the school found there was no shooter and led the lockdown to be lifted around 9:35 a.m.
“It's just an incredibly disheartening moment in our time here in our country really as these incidences are happening, not just in Stamford but all over the country,” Fox stated.
The swatters also hit other parts of the state. Police departments in East Hartford, Enfield, Groton, Norwich, Willimantic and Windsor Locks also responded to what were false shooting reports at schools in their communities.
Classes resumed at all the schools, but in Stamford many parents picked up their kids.
“Our parents didn’t want us to stay. They were like, ‘I don’t feel safe with you staying. I would really like you to go home,’ so now we’re going home,” said McGhee and her sister Sharae Henderson.
Fox, whose daughter goes to Stamford High School, said she understood fear and shock many parents had. She told News 12 her stomach dropped when she learned of the lockdown.
“It's an awful physical reaction you have knowing that your child might be in a situation that's as terrifying as the one that was described,” Fox said.
McGhee and Henderson said they were scared before learning everyone was safe.
“This was crazy, and I would not like to experience it again,” McGhee said.
“People do it to be funny, I guess. I don’t know why,” added Henderson.
“Don't joke around like that,” agreed Aguirre.
The Connecticut Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state, released the following statement regarding the rash of fake threats:
The swatting threats across Connecticut today, calling 911 to report fake active shooting incidents in our schools, are shocking, appalling, and downright dangerous. We need to take all threats seriously to ensure the safety of our students, teachers, and communities and quickly put an end to the fear, danger, and disruption they create. In the past few weeks, similar swatting threats were reported in numerous school districts in New Jersey, California, Florida, South Carolina, and other states. The rash of these fake emergency calls places communities in danger as first responders rush to the scene in force and are pulled away from real emergencies. For Connecticut, these false incidents are extremely traumatic and painful and a vivid reminder of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took 26 innocent lives nearly 10 years ago. We must all do our part to be diligent and report anything suspicious and work with law enforcement to put an end to this public safety threat.