Two days after six were killed in a school shooting in Nashville, Tenn., people in the Pittsburgh region were jolted Wednesday morning by reports of active shooters in several schools, only to learn a short time later that the reports were all hoaxes.
The first report in Pittsburgh arrived at 10:18 a.m. and targeted Central Catholic High School in Oakland, according to Thomas Stangrecki, acting Pittsburgh police chief. He said police determined within minutes that the report was a hoax. By then, the news had reached social media.
“Man on phone with 9-1-1 reporting 6 people shot inside Central Catholic H.S.,” read a 10:24 a.m. tweet from an account named Real News and Alerts Allegheny County. The tweet added that police and school security on site were reporting no knowledge of the incident.
Reports of an active shooter situation continued to bounce around Twitter, with some people posting video of police cars and SWAT team members on Fifth Avenue. As a precaution, Stangrecki said, several agencies sent units to the area — in addition to Pittsburgh police, responders included Pittsburgh fire and EMS units, state police, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and ATF, and police officers from Pittsburgh Regional Transit, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
Tory Wegerski, a journalist and producer at KDKA-TV, tweeted at 10:45 a.m. that the reports were false: “A hoax swatting call about a FAKE active school shooter — THIS WAS NOT REAL,” the tweet read in part.
People immediately voiced their anger and frustration at the perpetrator.
“I don’t have words for how angry and terrified I am,” read a tweet from @burkhart_quinn.
Virginia Montanez, who tweets as @JanePitt, sent her more than 30,000 followers a message acknowledging the pain of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11 worshippers.
“Man, you call in a school active shooter hoax in the city of Tree of Life, I hope you rot all the way back to worm dirt,” read the tweet.
Several Pennsylvania schools received similar hoax calls. They include schools in Hopewell, Laurel Highlands, New Castle, Erie, Meadville, Lehigh Valley, Allentown, Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Bellefonte.
Stangrecki said the Pittsburgh call is under investigation by city police, state police and the FBI.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey expressed gratitude for first responders.
“Our children shouldn’t be afraid to go to school, and parents shouldn’t be afraid to send them there,” he wrote in a statement. “As a parent, I understand that fear and will be holding my children a little closer tonight.”
The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.