More than a dozen South Carolina schools were targeted Wednesday morning in the aftermath of what appears to be a coordinated “swatting” campaign against these institutions. “Swatting” is a criminal harassment technique intended to trick law enforcement agencies into initiating aggressive responses to what they believe to be emergency situations – including bomb threats or active shooter scenarios.
The term derives its name from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units which are typically dispatched in response to such emergency situations.
In addition to posing a significant danger to the public, swatting also wastes scarce law enforcement and emergency medical services (EMS) resources.
In South Carolina, “swat” calls were made alleging active shooter incidents in Anderson, Beaufort, Charleston, Chester, Chesterfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Horry, Lancaster, Laurens, Newberry, Oconee and Richland counties, according to law enforcement.
According to law enforcement, all of the calls were hoaxes. No school shootings were reported in any of the Palmetto State’s roughly ninety school districts on Wednesday.
Here is a partial recap of what one local sheriff’s office described as a “widespread conspiracy” across the Palmetto State …
9:20 a.m. EDT – CHARLESTON COUNTY – Reports of active shooter at Burke High School in downtown Charleston, S.C. received by Charleston police department. School placed on lockdown. Call confirmed as hoax.
9:30 a.m. EDT – HORRY COUNTY – Reports of school shootings at Conway High School, Loris High School, Myrtle Beach Middle School and Myrtle Beach High School are called into Myrtle Beach police department and Conway police department. All schools were found to be safe.
9:30 a.m. EDT – BEAUFORT COUNTY – Reports of “shots fired” at Beaufort High School. School placed on lockdown. County sheriff deputies, Beaufort police and emergency services respond. No active shooter found. School cleared an hour-and-a-half later. Sheriff says “origin of call is being investigated.”
10:40 a.m. EDT – RICHLAND COUNTY – Reports of gunfire at Blythewood High School. Richland County sheriff’s deputies respond. No active shooter found. Sheriff Leon Lott said the hoax may have been linked to a “TikTok challenge” and that the caller used a program to make it appear as though the call originated from within the school.
10:45 a.m. EDT – ANDERSON COUNTY – Report of an active shooter at Robert Anderson Middle School. Anderson County sheriff’s deputies respond. No active shooter found. “There’s an active investigation to determine the origin of the calls,” according to sheriff’s office statement.
11:00 a.m. EDT – NEWBERRY COUNTY – Report of an active shooter at Newberry Middle School. School placed on lockdown. Newberry sheriff’s office responds. Report determined to be a hoax.
11:30 a.m. EDT – LANCASTER COUNTY – Active shooters reported at South Middle School and Brooklyn Springs Elementary School in Lancaster County. County sheriff’s deputies respond. No active shooters found.
12:10 p.m. EDT – CHESTERFIELD COUNTY – A “school shooting threat” was called in to Central High School and Chesterfield High School. Chesterfield County sheriff James Dixon said both calls were a “hoax” and that his agency was “actively working to find out who is responsible for these false calls.”
Additional school shooting hoax calls were placed in Greenwood, Greenville, Laurens and Oconee counties.
The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is leading an investigation into these hoax calls with support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple local law enforcement jurisdictions.
“The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is aware of school threats across South Carolina,” said Renée Wunderlich, the agency’s public information director. “SLED is evaluating the credibility of these threats. While at this time the threats are believed to be a hoax, SLED encourages each jurisdiction to take any and all threats seriously. SLED is actively working with our state and federal law enforcement partners. If you have any information about these threats, please call local law enforcement.”
Federal law enforcement sources confirmed their role in the “joint effort” on Tuesday afternoon.
“The FBI is aware of the numerous swatting incidents wherein a report of an active shooter at a school is made. Similar incidents have occurred recently across the country,” agency spokesman Kevin Wheeler said. “The FBI takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk. While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”
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The rash of hoax calls attracted the attention of South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, who was campaigning in the Upstate when the first calls came in on Wednesday morning.
“There’s no excuse for that kind of conduct,” McMaster told WYFF TV-4 (NBC – Greenville, S.C.) “People try to get the children educated and live their lives and have successful days and to have something like this thrown into it is unnecessary and just ridiculous – and it’s a crime.”
“I’m informed by law enforcement that those are not legitimate calls,” McMaster added. “I hope that they find who’s doing that, I hope that kind of conduct will stop immediately.”
McMaster said he was informed by SLED chief Mark Keel that the calls followed a similar script in which the “swatters” claimed a child had been shot or killed at the school.
S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson also weighed in on the situation, saying he was “disgusted” by the hoax calls.
“Active shooter situations are taken extremely serious by law enforcement,” Wilson tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. “False claims aren’t a joke and prosecutors across the state will not treat them as jokes. I am disgusted by the recent numerous reports of false active shooter situations at South Carolina schools.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has many hats – including that St. Louis Cardinals’ lid (with matching Stan Musial jersey) pictured above.
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