WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A series of "swatting" calls prompted a large police presence Tuesday morning at Palm Beach Atlantic University and several other South Florida colleges.
Police were called to PBAU, where students received text alerts about a lockdown on the downtown West Palm Beach campus.
West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said shortly before 10 a.m., someone called police to report an active shooter on campus with multiple victims and then hung up.
Students got the word of a possible active shooter via text that read, "Police activity near West Palm Beach campus. Secure in place. Get inside. Lock all outside doors."
Police Chief Frank Adderley said officers determined that it was a hoax "in a matter of minutes."
"We had enough people here, in case it was a legitimate call, to act appropriately," Adderley said.
Laura Bishop, executive vice president of advancement for PBAU, said the campus lockdown was lifted shortly after it was determined to be a hoax.
May 2, 2023: An individual called the police falsely stating there was an active shooter on the WPB campus. Police immediately responded. We are grateful campus is safe & for the quick action of the West Palm Beach Police Department, the FBI & PBA’s Department of Public Safety. pic.twitter.com/l82IZxznmE— Palm Beach Atlantic (@PBAUniversity) May 2, 2023
"It's terrible to say hoax with something like this," Bishop said. "Seems odd, because it's clearly not funny. But we are grateful that we had an opportunity to test our systems well."
The lockdown lasted a few minutes as dozens of armed officers patrolled outside, catching the eye of freshman Brandon Lee.
"I've never seen a gun that big with an officer on campus before," Lee said. "It sounded really serious."
The incident followed several other calls of threats at other South Florida institutions, including Florida International University, where a false report of an active shooter led to a campus scare.
FIU Alert Update: This morning @FIUPOLICE received reports of an active shooter in AHC 3. Officers have cleared the building and are now conducting a methodical search.— FIU (@FIU) May 2, 2023
There is no danger to anyone on campus.
The call appears to be false.
False threats were also reported at Florida Atlantic University and Indian River State College.
Indian River State College later said a 911 call of an active shooter on the Massey Campus in Fort Pierce was a "hoax."
IRSC campuses are safe. A call received by 911 claiming there was an active shooter on Massey Campus was a hoax. We thank the members of our local law enforcement community and IRSC Public Safety for their prompt support during the incident.— Indian River State College (@IRSCTheRiver) May 2, 2023
West Palm Beach police said the call had to be taken seriously even if it used a substantial amount of resources.
Detectives are looking to find those responsible and hold them accountable.
"It puts lives on the line of our responding officers and the fear that it instills among the students and the school community," Jachles said.
That fear left Palm Beach Atlantic students worried that the national wave of gun violence had crested on their downtown campus.
"Some people really freak out about this," Lee said. "It made me nervous."
Jachles said police are now working with the FBI to try to determine who made the call and if the calls to this and other campuses were coordinated.
"Swatting" is the act of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to attract a large number of law enforcement to a particular location.
Contact 5 put together a list of published reports of Florida colleges targeted by the hoax calls Tuesday:
WEST PALM BEACH
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Indian River State College-Massey Campus
Indian River State College-Mueller Campus
- Florida Atlantic University-Ft. Lauderdale Campus
- Broward College
Florida International University
- Southern Technical College
- Cape Coral Technical College
Arizona College of Nursing