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'Swatting' hoax threats force several Massachusetts schools into lockdown

'Swatting' hoax threats force several Massachusetts schools into lockdown
'Swatting' hoax threats force several Massachusetts schools into lockdown 02:57

AMESBURY - Schools in Amesbury, Boston, Chelmsford, North Attleboro and Westfield were forced to go into lockdown on Monday morning for reported threats that turned out to be hoaxes, police say.

First responders rushed to Amesbury High School after getting a report of shots fired. Other schools in the city went into "secure mode." 

"In the background just before he hung up, we could hear what we thought were gunshots being fired," explained Amesbury Police Chief Craig Bailey.

Chief Bailey said that a search of the school turned up nothing. "There were no reports of gunshots, no one said there were gunshots in the area," he said.   

WBZ Security Analyst Ed Davis says hoaxes like this put a real strain on emergency resources.

"Whether it's valid or not, you still have to take precautionary measures," Davis said. "So police resources are expended, and school resources are expended."

Salisbury, Newburyport, State Police and NEMLEC all assisted Amesbury in their response. Davis added that that can stretch resources thin. "They can be doing other more important things than chasing these things down, it's unfortunate," Davis said.  

It made for a stressful day for parents like Lara Owens. "I'm relieved this was all fake but it was still not a good way to start the week," said Owens.

A sentiment mom Michelle Riddle agrees with. "State Police were out here with their guns and everything, it was a lot," she said.

Riddle told WBZ she was worried about her son all day. "It's terrifying," she said. "You hear about it all the time and you think 'not in our town.'"

Her son, who is a sophomore, was in Spanish class when the lockdown began. "They announced over the intercom there was something going on and they had us go in the corner," said Jordan Roig. "Obviously it was scary, but we all made it through."

Freshman Brendan Owens said, "Everyone was panicked."

Elizabeth McAndrews, Superintendent of Amesbury Public Schools, thanked first responders and the students and families for their cooperation.

In Boston, police say Charlestown High School and East Boston High School both got threat calls that are "believed to be a hoax," but the schools went into safe mode as a precaution. No injuries were reported.

"We condemn this hoax that happened here and in communities across Massachusetts in the strongest possible terms," Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper said.

Chelmsford police said a 911 caller told dispatchers "they intended to cause harm and inflict damage at Chelmsford High School." A large number of police officers searched school grounds before determining the call was a hoax.

Elsewhere in the state, the North Attleboro superintendent said police got a phone call "from an unknown individual making a threat to the safety of the high school." The school was locked down, but police quickly confirmed there was no real threat "and students were able to resume their day."

"NAPD has identified this as a 'swatting' or hoax call, similar to others received today by several Massachusetts communities," Superintendent John Antonucci said in a statement.

Westfield police also said a threat was called in for White Oak School. Police said after clearing all school buildings and making sure everyone was safe, they determined the threat to be "non credible."

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