East Greenwich police got a call at around 9:40 a.m. Monday reporting there was a person with a weapon in East Greenwich High School. The call was determined by state police to be a hoax or what’s known as a “swatting call” within minutes but not before EGHS and schools in several other Rhode Island towns were put on lockdown.
Swatting is when someone makes false reports to emergency services with the intention of initiating a large police response. This is the second time in just over a month the high school has been a target of a swatting call.
Supt. Brian Ricca outlined the response in a letter to families Monday afternoon:
EGHS was immediately placed in lockdown, consistent with our School Emergency Operations Plan. Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School was placed in a shelter-in-place out of an abundance of caution. Members of the EGPD arrived on the scene shortly after the call and conducted a thorough search of the building. EGPD determined there was no threat to EGHS or any other facility in the district. The lockdown at EGHS and shelter-in-place at Meadowbrook were lifted shortly after that.
According to state police Lt. Col. Robert Creamer, RISP’s Fusion Center “identified this as a hoax very quickly.”
He added, “The calls are from the same phone number and the same person and deliver a similar message and to at least 14 different municipalities were contacted. All municipal police departments responded and cleared the affected schools. All were deemed safe.”
Based on texts from students in the building, the “lockdown” lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.
“We have no reason to believe a threat exists to any of our schools in the district,” said Ricca in his letter. “Based on available information, it is believed that these ‘swatting’ phone calls to emergency services originate from overseas and follow a familiar fact pattern when reported by the caller.”
Ricca said incidents like this, though unsettling, “allow us to work in conjunction and collaboration with the EGPD to review and reinforce our current emergency response protocols.… Sadly, this is a part of the landscape in education in the 21st century – we want all of our students to feel safe, welcomed, and included when they come to school, even if events like this happen.”