False threats to schools continues across U.S.
Latest: Authorities arrest man in Charlotte who made multiple SWATTING calls while living in Arizona
Fake calls containing threats of violence against schools in particular seem to be happening quite often with the return to regular school operations following the pandemic.
The tactic of making fake calls to garner a police response can sometimes be referred to as SWATTING and typically is used to harass a specific person or target. The term SWATTING is derived from the specialized police units known as Special Weapons And Tactics or SWAT.
A September 2022 report in Wired Magazine claimed that 16 states "collectively suffered more than 90 false reports of school shooters during three weeks in September—and many appear to be connected."
A report by a Wisconsin outlet in mid-October cited a rash of fake threat calls both in the state and "across the country." That report included a statement from a local FBI field office.
One expert with the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) was cited by a media outlet as claiming most of the SWATTING calls were likely "coming from overseas."
NASRO has apparently tracked at least 60 instances of school shooting threats and SWATTING incidents that took place since September in 34 states as well as in Washington, D.C. NASRO’s Executive Director Mo Canady sounded the alarm in an opinion article titled, "The dangers of school shooting hoaxes."
While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been involved in a number of the SWATTING hoaxes occurring across the country both historically and recent months, the agency's website does not appear to have updated any of its warnings or resources since 2018 when it launched the "Think before you post" campaign.
Instead, under the Biden administration, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has seemed more interested in directing the FBI to investigate parents protesting at local school boards and labeling them as "domestic terrorists" using a counter-terrorism matrix.
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This past week, a man who made fake threats of violence to police and schools had been arrested and taken into custody by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
James Thomas Andrew McCarty, age 20, was charged with nine counts of making a false statement, nine counts of false information and hoax, six counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of stalking. The charges are all federal.
An arrest warrant was issued for McCarty on Nov. 30 but he was not taken into custody until Dec. 14. Records show he remains a federal inmate in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
McCarty is accused of making 18 threats during the first six months of 2021. At the time he made the threats, McCary was living in Kayenta, Arizona.
According to the indictment documents, McCarty made threats to police departments and schools in five states; Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
McCarty's fake emergency calls often included claiming he was going to commit a shooting at a school or that pipe bombs had been planted in a public location. He also allegedly claimed he had already killed people in order to illicit a tactical police response, per the charging documents.
In North Carolina, communicating threats or making false reports of mass violence on educational property became a Class H Felony due to legislation that increased penalties for such offenses enacted during the 2017-18 session of the General Assembly. The sentence for the crime can be between four and 24 months in prison.
On Dec. 1, multiple districts across the state of North Carolina received fake threats of violence including Alamance, Beaufort, Craven, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Onslow, and Wake.
The FBI in Charlotte was also tracking the incidents.
“FBI Charlotte is aware of numerous threats to area schools and are in touch with the local law enforcement agencies involved. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately,” an FBI Charlotte press release said.
Last month, a 13-year-old was sent to a juvenile detention center for threatening to bring a gun to Tucker Creek Middle School in Havelock, North Carolina.
Three juveniles were charged in separate threat incidents that occurred in Sampson County last May. Two girls, ages 12 and 13, were charged under the false threats statute after they made fake social media accounts and posted threats to a high school because they didn’t want to go to school that day. The other incident involved a threat sent via a group chat. WRAL reported, “It was discovered that a 13-year-old boy at Roseboro Middle School sent a threat, stating they were going to kill students at Salemburg Elementary.”
The state's largest district, Wake County, also saw a wave of threats last May made to at least seven of its schools.
Prior to commencement activities in June 2022, 18-year-old Jacob Lawlor, a Bradford Preparatory High School student, made a threat of mass violence against the school.
This school year, in September, a juvenile was identified as having made up to three fake bomb threats over a two-day period to Cabarrus areas schools resulting in the evacuation of five high schools. Also in September, two Charlotte-area schools received bomb threats within a 24-hour period.
Last year, there were at least a dozen fake calls or threats that garnered media attention in North Carolina. One was traced to out-of-state sources while the others originated within the state.
In December 2021, a bomb threat made to a Harnett County School originated in Tennessee and Georgia. Per media reports, the call was traced to two boys, ages 13 and 15, who were communicating via video games on X-box gaming consoles. It is unclear how two boys in two different states thought up the idea to target a specific school in a North Carolina district.
In Sept. 2021, 18-year-old Kayshaun Williams was arrested for making multiple threats of mass violence to schools in Guilford County. That same month, a 17-year-old was arrested for threats to three schools in Johnston County.
Khadija Wilkins, a substitute at Albemarle Middle School was charged in March 2020 with threatening felony mass violence on education property and misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a public building.
An incident of a threat of violence in 2020 was made by a substitute teacher.