BCA: ‘Swatting’ calls impact 15 Minnesota schools

Mankato West was one of at least 15 schools across Minnesota that law enforcement responded to Wednesday after receiving reports of an active shooter.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 8:05 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2022 at 8:10 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Mankato West was one of at least 15 schools across Minnesota that law enforcement responded to Wednesday after receiving reports of an active shooter.

The building was put on lockdown, with students in hiding and parents panicking for their kids’ safety.

But when armed first responders arrived at the scene, they discovered the report was false.

“With recent events of school shootings, it can cause a lot of panic, a lot of stress,” said Scott Hare, director of student support services at Mankato Area Public Schools.

“You’ve disrupted thousands of students and many teachers and many people in law enforcement, and that’s not including others in the community as well,” Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott added.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says it was all part of a nationwide trend called swatting, which involves “making a prank call to law enforcement services in an attempt to bring a large law enforcement response to a particular address.”

Despite the growing trend, Mankato Area Public Schools says it takes every threat seriously.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Public Safety at 911 or 507-387-8725.

“Those are ones we just can’t mess around with. We have to take them seriously, each and every one of them,” Hare stated.

More than a dozen other schools across the state had similar swatting incidents Wednesday, including in New Ulm, Fairmont, and Austin.

School districts in the following Minnesota cities also confirmed that similar calls were placed Wednesday:

  • Minneapolis
  • New Ulm
  • Fairmont
  • St. Paul
  • Rochester
  • Alexandria
  • Cloquet
  • Austin
  • Fergus Falls
  • Brainerd
  • Rosemount
  • Mankato
  • Grand Rapids
  • Bemidji
  • International Falls

“It could have been a diversion tactic for somebody else, calling something on one side of town, and now you have all the resources on one side of town, and maybe there’s a robbery on the other side of town. You just don’t know,” McDermott stated.

McDermott says there are serious consequences for making false reports and deploying valuable resources.

“The court can order restitution for the officers’ time,” McDermott said. “When you get into something like this, especially like reporting an active shooter in a school, you have a significant amount of resources dedicated and officers respond to that incident. I would assume that you had pretty much every available sworn officer at that incident.”

Fifteen school districts across Minnesota confirmed they also had similar incidents on Wednesday.

The FBI has traced some swatting calls back to online robots with unusual area codes.

But McDermott says it’s still likely that law enforcement will find and prosecute the people behind them.

“It may take a while, but typically what I’ve found in my career is you will be found, they will find you, and there will be consequences,” McDermott stated.

Minnesota isn’t the only state experiencing mass swatting incidents, with Texas, Florida and Illinois also reporting them.

Last week, 30 false active shooter reports were made across the U.S. That number is now up to 44 and continues to grow.

“It’s just not a good thing for hoaxes like this for people to play with people’s emotions,” Hare said.

The Mankato Department of Public Safety declined to add anything further to their original statements and comments from Wednesday.

Following Wednesday’s swatting incidents across the state, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is promoting an app called “See it, Say it, Send it,” a platform that allows people to send tips to the BCA regarding school safety.

With the app, users can send tips, images and other information to the BCA anonymously or through a created profile.

The BCA monitors the tips coming in through the app 24/7. Once the BCA receives a tip, authorities can determine if it’s an issue best handled by law enforcement or other responses, such as a school counselor.

You can find the “See it, Say it, Send it” app within your device’s app store. If you have a tip for the BCA, you can also call them at 1-877-996-6222 or email them at bca.tips@state.mn.us.