Manitoba man arrested for fake U.S. school shooting threats


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A Fisher River Cree Nation man has been arrested after multiple false reports of an armed student forced the lockdown of American schools and drew large-scale police action.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/09/2021 (560 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Fisher River Cree Nation man has been arrested after multiple false reports of an armed student forced the lockdown of American schools and drew large-scale police action.

On Wednesday, RCMP said they were acting to assist the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Homeland Security when Manitoba officers executed a search warrant Aug. 30 at a Fisher River home.

An 18-year-old man was arrested and police seized a number of electronic items, RCMP said.

Police described the incidents — two in Tennessee and two in North Carolina — as “swatting,” a name given to false reports that describe a life-threatening situation meant to provoke an armed police response.

RCMP media relations manager Sgt. Paul Manaigre would not elaborate on any motive behind the hoax phone calls.

In past swatting incidents in North America, some suspects made deceiving calls after online disputes, typically over video games.

The 18-year-old has been released and will appear in court Dec. 7 at Peguis First Nation.

Just before 8 a.m., Aug. 10, a person who claimed to be a student at Volunteer High School in Church Hill, Tenn., told 911 dispatchers he was in the school’s main bathroom with a gun and was headed to another area of the building, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Sheriff’s deputies and the Church Hill Police Department responded and searched for a potential active shooter, while agencies from surrounding counties went on alert and helped with the evacuation of the school.

Law enforcement later declared the threatening phone calls to be a hoax.

It was the second day of classes.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, people are dead. I need to get there,'” a mother of two students told local newspaper Rogersonville Review.

In the neighbouring state of North Carolina, Watauga High School was the site of similar events Aug. 18.

At about 3:20 p.m., Boone Police Department received an anonymous call a student had made threats of causing harm; police cleared the school and deemed students safe.

Soon after, local agencies determined it was a hoax and began working with Tennessee counterparts over the similar false reports.

Manitoba police were first contacted for help Aug. 17, after U.S. law enforcement traced fake calls to the province. RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service said they later determined the messages came from Fisher River, 190 kilometres north of the capital city.

So-called swatting is not new to Canada.

In March, a 15-year-old who had previously lived in Saskatchewan was arrested for numerous 2020 incidents across the United States and Canada, the Saskatoon Police Service said. The youth was arrested by the Louisiana Sheriff’s Office and faced charges in New Jersey, as well as potential extradition to other American jurisdictions.

On Wednesday, Manaigre said RCMP would have to look into whether there have been other swatting incidents in the province.

WPS Const. Jay Murray said swatting isn’t common in Winnipeg, but does occur.

However, it’s typically done differently, with a local focus: people place false calls to a nearby address to watch the emergency response or make fake calls to disrupt “someone locally,” such as a criminal rival, Murray said in an email.

“The interesting thing about the RCMP investigation is that the incidents occurred in the USA — a significant distance from the suspect’s location. We’ve seen in the past that this sometimes has happened to members of the online gaming community while they stream,” he said.

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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