Several school districts in South Carolina the targets of fake school shooting calls

Schools in Lancaster, Chesterfield and Chester counties were among the schools with false reports.
South Middle School was one of several schools in S.C. that had false reports of an active shooter.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT
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LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - School districts across the state of South Carolina were the targets of false school-shooting reports on Wednesday, officials throughout the state confirmed.

The FBI is calling this swatting. It is when someone calls 911 reporting a fake active shooter threat to get law enforcement to rush that area with resources. That is exactly what happened here in Lancaster County and two other school districts.

In the WBTV viewing area, districts in Lancaster, Chesterfield and Chester counties all had active-shooter reports called into 911. None of them turned out to be credible. Law enforcement and districts say no shots were fired and no students or school staff were injured.

That did not stop parents from coming to get their kids from South Middle. While school was not dismissed, the Lancaster County School District created a lane for parents to come pick up their kids and released those kids when the parents got there.

“I just came down here to get my kids. I got off work to come down here,” says one South Middle Parent.

South Middle School parents did not let anything get in their way of making sure their kids were safe. This South Middle parent left work to get her kids after hearing several different stories of threats against their school.

”I was scared, nervous like any parent should be,” says that parent. ”Some of the students said somebody got stabbed. Somebody else said it was an active shooter. I just know is my kids come first.”

Everyone would soon find out this was a complete hoax about an active shooter, but not before Lancaster emergency responders came full force to the school.

”Everything we had was headed this way. The kids are important to us. We certainly don’t want to see the kids get hurt,” says Sheriff Barry Faile.

Similar calls came into Chester County Schools and Chesterfield County Schools—both districts bringing in extra security just in case. In Lancaster County, a 911 call reporting a shooting at South Middle School came in just after 11:30 a.m. In Chester County, two calls came in. Then, around 1 p.m., Chesterfield County received another similar call.

But back in Lancaster, Sheriff Barry Faile says his deputies and other emergency responders responded like this was the real thing.

”We had tactical teams going through the school making sure everyone was ok. Clearing all the classrooms, closet, bathrooms, gymnasiums. Everyone responded and done what they were supposed to do what they’ve been training for,” says Faile.

Safety Director Bryan Vaughn says he feels good as he can about their response to a situation like this, especially because no one was actually hurt.

”I’m just disappointed that somebody would do something like that and take the resources away from the community and create that havoc,” says Vaughn.

Throughout the rest of the state, at least 11 other counties - Oconee, Greenville, Anderson, Laurens, Greenwood, Newberry, Richland, Beaufort, Charleston, Horry and Spartanburg - also received similar calls.

Local law enforcement, SLED, the FBI, and the S.C. Attorney General’s Office are working to find the source of the calls, and could potentially punish the people responsible.

The FBI sent out a statement saying these types of calls, which they call swatting incidents, are being made all over the country. The full statement says:

Related: Governor says fake school shooting calls may be from another country

An investigation is the next steps in this investigation—who called into these school and created that havoc. Local, state and federal law enforcement says these false claims are not a joke and will be investigated thoroughly. The S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson tweeted saying “false claims aren’t a joke and prosecutors across the state will not treat them as jokes.”