How Manistee Area Law Enforcement Handles Fake 911 Calls

Swatting is often referred to as someone reporting a bomb, shooter, or other type of threat aimed at an individual – knowing that such a threat does not exist.

It is often called so because a SWAT team can be called to an individual’s residence. However, the term is sometimes used colloquially to include other 911 hoaxes and other bogus threats that do not target an individual.

Last week, across the country, from Ohio to Minnesota to Texas, calls were made claiming that students had been shot at school. There were several targeted schools in the three states. Schools were closed and parents panicked, but no deaths or injuries occurred during the incidents.

However this is not always the case. In some cases, bystanders and others have died from fraudulent phone calls.

The Associated Press reported that a Wichita, Kansas man was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for his role in a prank call that led police to shoot and kill an innocent man in 2017.

However, the police and other first responders have certain procedures and can take steps to eliminate false calls.

Manistee Police Chief Josh Glass said “it’s important to use a little common sense, use your instincts but also follow the (Manistee County) emergency response plan “.

Glass said it’s important for anyone responding to such calls, whether a 911 operator, police officer, deputy sheriff or firefighter, to ensure that he asks the right questions in order to verify the veracity of the information.

“What we don’t want is someone not responding because they think ‘this is weird,'” Glass said.

He added that every threat should be taken seriously, but verification is also necessary.

He said it was essential that after a 911 call about a bomb or school shooter was determined to be a hoax, police went into “investigation mode”.

Glass has worked with the FBI in the past on bogus threats, and late last year he responded to a threat that was determined to be a hoax at Manistee Middle High School.

Hoax threats come to Manistee

On December 17, ominous posts on TikTok warning of school shootings and bomb threats for schools nationwide went viral, leaving local administrators jittery. Vague and anonymous messages circulating online encouraged students to bring weapons to school to commit acts of violence.

A social media post had also pointed the finger at public schools in the Manistee area.

The threats came from a TikTok challenge called “National Shoot Up Your School Day”.

MAPS schools closed early for winter vacation due to threats. The threats came about two and a half weeks after the Oxford High School shooting on November 30.

MAPS Superintendent Ron Stoneman explained why a decision was made to close the schools in a previous interview with the News Advocate.

“… Nothing at the time was locally related, but it seems the intent of National Shoot Up Your School Day was to encourage others to participate in this type of communication. Part of that started to increase. … Suddenly the police department was also made aware of some potential things that we needed to look into,” Stoneman said.

“…We wanted to give the police department enough time to properly investigate and look into these circumstances that have started to emerge locally.”

Glass said threats against Manistee Middle High School were made on the evening of December 16 at 8:42 p.m.

“The message warned students not to attend school on Friday, December 17 and advised that there would be a shooting. The Manistee City Police Department worked closely with the MAPS administration, the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police to investigate the origins of this social media post,” Glass wrote in a press release the next morning.

He also noted that there would be possible consequences for the person who perpetrated the hoax.

“During this investigation, officers were able to identify and interview the author of the post, who was a minor. The Manistee City Police Department will submit a report to the Manistee County District Attorney’s Office to review any possible criminal charges,” he said.

Glass said the prosecutor’s office never cleared the charges against the minor.