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Multiple hoax 'active shooter' calls made to South Dakota schools

Schools.jpg

Police are looking into multiple hoax threats called into schools across South Dakota Thursday. This comes the same day the shooter of a Parkland, Florida school received a life sentence.

Brookings PD has confirmed that in addition to a threat called at Brookings High School, schools in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Watertown, and Mitchell were also targeted.

Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick said officers searched the school Thursday morning and found no threat. He said it appears the situation was a case of "swatting."

"At this moment this all appears to be a hoax – a called in hoax. We've noticed this term that's being utilized lately, a term called "swatting," Where people call in a situation like this, brings in a large law enforcement response," Hedrick said.

On the other side of the state, Sioux Falls Police spokesperson Sam Clemens said the call first came in the 8:00 AM hour.

“That information was relayed to area law enforcement, and the best way to say this is the response was immediate and en masse," Clemens said. "We had a lot of officers from the police department, deputies from the Minnehaha County Sheriffs Office, I did hear of at least a couple of different federal law enforcement agents that were heading to that area as well.”

Clemens said there were clues from the caller that indicated a potential hoax.

“Part of the thing was, I guess, the information the guy was providing, I would say wasn’t real accurate," Clemens said. "He said he was a student, but didn’t sound like a student, so those were kind of red flags. There were a few things that made us think this probably wasn’t legitimate, but we still took it as a legitimate threat.”

Clemens said police believe the calls did not originate in South Dakota.  A message from the Sioux Falls School District sent to parents says schools across the country received similar false threats Thursday.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.