Beaufort County police agencies are turning over their investigation to the FBI and are giving minimal updates about what went down at Beaufort High School Wednesday morning when they got an active shooter call that turned out to be a hoax.
“At this point, there’s not a lot we can say,” said Beaufort Police Department Chief Dale McDorman. “We will tell you this is a joint investigation between the Beaufort Police Department, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.”
Calls and police reports related to the investigation will not be released to the public and instead will be turned over to the FBI, said Beaufort County Sheriff PJ Tanner.
“We’re not releasing any of that,” Tanner said.
The call came in around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to the Beaufort Police Department’s main line and was transferred to the sheriff’s office non-emergency dispatch, McDorman and Tanner said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Students were under lockdown in their classrooms for hours while law enforcement went room-by-room checking for a shooter.
Charges for the person responsible for the call have yet to be determined and are dependent upon further investigation, Tanner said.
By 11:10 a.m., no shooter, weapons or potential victims were found. Students had an early dismissal and were reunited with their parents at 1:55 p.m. at the Beaufort High School Stadium.
Around 83 law enforcement officers from the Beaufort Police Department; the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office; Port Royal Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; FBI; and state troopers were at the school Wednesday, according to reporting by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. A K-9 unit from the U.S. Military was also at the school, McDorman said.
“This was an unfortunate incident that occurred at our school,” he said. “I won’t speak to the type of person that would do this.”
‘Emotions are high’
Hoax calls and similar false alarms at schools have “bothered law enforcement agencies throughout the country for a while now,” Tanner said.
At least 22 other entities across South Carolina received similar threats Wednesday, sending in schools in Horry County, Greenville, Greenwood County, Anderson County, Richland County, Charleston, York County and Florence to go into lockdown as well.
Emotional support and counseling will be available to students by the Beaufort County School District, according to school Superintendent Frank Rodriguez.
Tensions ran high as parents gathered outside of the school waiting for updates and information. Shoving ensued, and some parents suggested they be allowed to get inside of the school to pick up their kids themselves.
“We understand that emotions are high in a situation like that,” Rodriguez said. “The very first thing any parent would want to do is put your hands on them and hug them.”
Communication, McDorman said, was “one of the most frustrating parts of the morning” and questioned whether, if this were a real active shooter situation, students’ cell phones would “put them in more danger.”
“We agonized over what to put out and when to put it out because we wanted to get it out,” McDorman said. “Being a parent myself, the information wasn’t out soon enough; but we couldn’t get it out any quicker.”