FBI investigates false shooting calls at multiple local high schools

KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. — A false call about a potential active shooter at Kings Mountain High School drew a police response Monday morning. It was one of several false calls made about local high schools that day, and the FBI is now investigating the threats.

Police said a caller falsely claimed she was in the school and someone was shooting.

“Active shooter is probably the worst thing, worst call that you can actually get,” said Kings Mountain Police Chief Gerald Childress.

In a Facebook post around 9:45 a.m., city officials confirmed they did not find a suspect and the situation was under control.

Officials added no students were at the school Monday due to spring break. Officers still wasted no time getting to the high school; 40 to 50 officers, some with automatic rifles and drones, arrived at the scene.

People driving by told Lemon they were worried.

“Scared because we have family in the school system,” Mark McDaniel said.

“It’s big ‘cause I got nieces down here,” Mary McKinney said.

It’s not clear if anyone will be arrested for the false call.

Several other high schools affected

It was one of multiple schools in the Charlotte region to be hit with “swatting” calls on Monday, April 1, commonly known as April Fools’ Day.

The Lincoln County sheriff confirmed officers were sent to East Lincoln High School to clear the building for what turned out to be a false call for an active shooter.

Two people called in that threat, authorities said. In the 911 call recording, you can hear a man and a woman claiming to hear gunfire. The woman played what sounds like a recording of gunfire.

In Cleveland County, deputies responded to a swatting call at Crest High School, which is near Shelby.

At least 20 Morganton Public Safety officers went to Freedom Mill High School for a swatting call.

And in Caldwell County, the school district confirmed a false shooting call made at South Caldwell High School.

In Catawba County, officers with the Hickory Police Department say they were investigating a false active shooter report at Hickory High School just before 12:30 p.m. Police were sent to the school after getting reports of shots fired inside the school.

Students at all six schools were on spring break Monday.

Scores of officers spent April 1 chasing fake calls, but police aren’t laughing.

“It’s very shameful that they do this. It’s very, very wrong,” Chief Childress said. “It’s a drain on resources on the community.”

Channel 9 reached out to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which said they did not receive any of these calls. Elsewhere in North Carolina, Apex High School in Wake County called a Code Red lockdown for students after a hoax call about an active shooter. Officials said they found no real threat.

Anyone with information is asked to call their local police department.

What’s the penalty for swatting?

Right now, in North Carolina it’s only a misdemeanor to create this mess. But Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz learned lawmakers may soon look at upgrading that charge for false calls.

“It’s incredibly dangerous for everybody involved,” said Rep. Jason Saine.

Saine represents Lincoln County and was troubled by the calls, which cause a waste of resources.

“It’s a bad place to put our law enforcement and first responders to really have to take out of their day when they could be responding to something else,” he told Sáenz.

Investigators haven’t said whether they know who’s responsible or if they’re connected. But if you’re caught doing this type of thing in North Carolina, you’d only face a misdemeanor. You’d likely be charged with making a false report to law enforcement -- only upgraded to a felony if the “unfounded report relates to a law enforcement investigation involving the disappearance of a child.”

Rep. Saine believes lawmakers should revisit that.

“I really do think we need to something differently,” he said. “To say hey, this is just not going to be tolerated. You do this, there’s going to be real consequences.”

Saine told Sáenz he plans to talk with colleagues in the next session about this, but he believes it’s something that could have bipartisan support.

FBI investigating

Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe learned the FBI is now investigating the hoaxes in our area and in other parts of the state.

The bureau told Channel 9 the FBI is aware of the numerous hoax incidents and, while there is no specific information to indicate a specific and credible threat, the FBI is working with local, state, and federal partners to gather, share, and act upon those threats.

The FBI said it’s seeing an increase in swatting events across the country. It’s why in the spring of 2023, the agency initiated a virtual command center called the National Common Operation Picture. It’s a collaborative effort open to any law enforcement agency that allows them to track and create a real-time picture of swatting incidents.

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.