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St. John's Prep in Danvers cancels classes day after officer accidentally fires gun during threat response

Classes canceled at St. John's Prep after swatting incident
Classes canceled at St. John's Prep after swatting incident 02:35

DANVERS – A report of an active shooter Monday at St. John's Prep in Danvers turned out to be a swatting hoax, but the police response was "ramped up" when an officer responding to the incident accidentally discharged their gun, authorities say. Classes have been canceled at the school Tuesday for all students in grades 6 through 11.

No threat was found at the school of 1,450 students, and no one was hurt. But the frightening incident and sound of a gunshot sent students running from the building. 

"During the search process there was an accidental discharge of a firearm. . . that resulted in an increased response from area departments," Danvers Police Chief James Lovell said.

The officer was responding to a report of a threat in the men's room when the gun went off. No one else was in the bathroom when it happened, police said.

"We believe that St. John's was the victim of a Swatting call," the school informed parents Monday afternoon. "Everyone is safe, there have been no injuries and police are currently clearing campus buildings as we account for all students."

Police are working to identify who made the swatting call. Incidents of "swatting" have been spreading across the country recently, including Massachusetts in recent weeks. More than a dozen Greater Boston schools went on lockdown in mid-February, prompted by the same - or very similar - recorded 911 hoax calls.

"This is everybody's nightmare," Head of School Edward Hardiman said. "My message to our students underneath the tent was some of us are going to be OK, some of us are going to be really traumatized by what happened. It's our responsibility to reach out to each other, to support each other, to care for each other."

Students recalled the frightening moments.

"My teacher, great guy, immediately locked the door. He turned off the lights, he closed the shades. Everyone immediately got up and moved our desks. We did exactly what we were told to do in a situation like this," student Will Hayes told WBZ-TV.

"I just heard 'school shooter, school shooter' and we ran all the way down to the first floor and once we got out, I just sprinted to where everyone was sprinting towards the wellness center," said student Tom Butler.

"My friend heard like a police officer running through and he had an AR in his hand and so we all just kind of panicked, so we started barricading the door at that point," said student Andrew Haykal. "I'm just really disappointed. Like we shouldn't really have to go through this."

That reality has parents furious

"There are 18-year-old, 17-year-old, 16-year-olds having panic attacks because they see it in the news every day that people can get into school with guns and shoot everybody they love," parent Andre Zarur said.  

"To see the sixth graders in horror like that, is just not OK. We need protection of our schools," one woman said.

"It's never a good feeling when you get a phone call like that at work from your son running through the woods, frantically," added parent Bill Butler.

B.C. High in Dorchester also received a call Monday about an active shooter on campus, a school spokesperson told WBZ-TV. Police quickly investigated the threat and did not find anything. No students were on campus Monday, and staff were away at a retreat. 

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