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Police: ‘Bored’ teen called in school shooting 911 hoax

A Florida teen is facing two felony charges after he admitted to ‘swatting’ a school -- prompting a lockdown and hysteria

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By David Ovalle
The Miami Herald

HIALEAH, Fla. — Police say a bored teenager is to blame for a hoax 911 call claiming a gunman was rampaging through a Hialeah charter school, forcing a lockdown, terrifying students and spurring SWAT officers to rush to the campus.

Hialeah detectives on Tuesday night arrested one of the teens, a 13-year-old student at Lincoln-Martí Charter School who they say admitted he and another young man “swatted” the school. Swatting is slang for a dangerous prank sometimes played by online gamers who call in threats to force heavily armed police officers to respond.

“The defendant’s actions caused mass hysteria and chaos in the school,” according to a Hialeah police arrest report.

The charter school serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and is part of the Lincoln-Martí chain of private schools.

A second suspect is believed to be from New Jersey. According to police reports, the two also orchestrated a prank 911 call in Freehold Borough, New Jersey, falsely alleging that a high school teacher had kidnapped someone — spurring officers to rush to the bewildered man’s home.

The Hialeah teen was charged with two felonies: falsely reporting a threat and interfering with an educational institution. The Miami Herald is not naming him because of his age.

The prank 911 call came in to Hialeah police at 11:44 a.m. Tuesday, alleging an “active shooter” at Lincoln-Martí, 3500 W. 84th St. The campus was immediately placed on lockdown as SWAT officers rushed there, searching room by room for a shooter that did not exist.

One student texted a classmate who was home doing an online class that “they were going to die,” an arrest report said. Within that circle of classmates, rumors began circulating that the teen suspect was involved.

Another classmate called the teen on FaceTime and he admitted to the swatting, the report said. The teen suspect even posted photos of news accounts of the incident on his Snapchat account, seemingly bragging, police said.

“Like I said Im bout my s—t,” read one post, according to police.

When confronted by Hialeah police, the teen admitted to the “swatting” and said he and the other young man planned it together, the report said. The Hialeah teen gave his buddy a “play by play layout of the school to make it appear as if the alleged active shooter was physically present” on campus, according to the report.

The two then called police in New Jersey, giving the address of a teacher and saying that he kidnapped a 13-year-old boy and was holding him a hostage, according to a police report. The stunned teacher — who was in the middle of teaching an online Zoom class — answered the door and allowed officers inside. They quickly dismissed the call as a prank.

It was unclear Wednesday if investigators had identified the suspect in New Jersey.

In recent years, swatting pranks have happened across the country, often at the homes of celebrities. Five years ago, Miami Beach police SWAT officers rushed to the mansion of rapper Lil Wayne after someone called to falsely report he’d shot four people inside.

Authorities across the country have warned that swatting wastes valuable police time and resources — and could be deadly.

In 2017, a feud between gamers led to a phony call to police in Wichita, Kansas, alleging a hostage situation. The result: Wichita police shot and killed an innocent man who had no involvement in the feud and didn’t know about the bogus call. A California man involved in the prank was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

NEXT: What the surge in swatting calls means for police

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