AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Wednesday morning reports of an active shooter at Coventry High School turned out to be yet another “swatting” hoax at an Ohio school, according to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Law enforcement agencies across Northern Ohio received similar calls Wednesday regarding several other schools, the Cleveland FBI confirmed in a news release.
“It’s not only happening here in Northern Ohio. It’s actually happening in several states across the country,” said Cleveland FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jeff Tyler.
A caller reported an active shooter to Summit County authorities just after 10 a.m., according to a separate news release. But deputies who responded to the Portage Lakes Drive school “within minutes” found nothing amiss — “the call was determined to be a hoax,” reads the release.
Anyone with information about the false report is urged to contact Summit County detectives at 330-643-8640.
Edgewood Senior High School in Ashtabula was targeted by a similar hoax Wednesday afternoon, county officials confirmed, but a report on that incident was not available Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Cleveland police investigated a similar unfounded shooter hoax just after 10 a.m., this one at James Ford Rhodes High School along Biddulph Road.
“The individuals creating these calls, the goal is to get local law enforcement to respond,” said Tyler. “It’s all just bad, but of course when our youngest, our most vulnerable are being targeted, it does take on a special connotation.”
Sometimes in the past, he says, the calls have been connected to a social media challenge, but they don’t yet know the source of Wednesday’s swatting incidents.
The Cleveland FBI also acknowledged the incidents in a Wednesday statement:
The Cleveland FBI is aware of the swatting incidents in Northern Ohio. The FBI takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk. While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.
Earlier this month, investigators in Ravenna identified a 12-year-old Rootstown Township boy as the source of multiple “swatting” calls to at least three school districts in Northeast Ohio. Police believed the boy was also responsible for similar recent hoaxes in Pennsylvania and Texas, according to a news release from the department.
He was not identified and was not charged at the time.
Ohio law only considers swatting a misdemeanor, although some can be federally prosecuted.
“We review each instance as they happen to assess for federal prosecution,” said Tyler.
A proposed bill is currently going through the Statehouse in Ohio that would make swatting a felony.
The Criminal Justice Committee must still vote on whether or not to move the bill to the House floor.
The FBI is urging the public to “remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”
Anyone with information about the most recent “swatting” incidents is urged to contact local law enforcement or the FBI at 1-800-call-FBI or Tips@FBI.gov.