COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A retired FBI agent thinks fake active shooter calls spanning 12 Ohio schools could be coming from the same source.
NBC4 obtained audio from four of the Sept. 23 phone calls, which had police responding to nonexistent active shooters across Ohio. The caller, or callers, made statements including the number of students shot and the weapon used. In three of the calls, including one to a Columbus school, the caller said the weapon used was an AR-15 rifle.
Former FBI Agent Harry Trombitas took note.
"To me, it sounded like the individual or individuals were operating off of a script of some kind," Trombitas said. "They would start off pretty much the same way, but each call-taker .... reacts differently and asks different questions. And sometimes that threw the individual off his script – his or her script."
Trombitas previously shared strategies investigators could be using to trace who was behind what's known as swatting calls. While difficult, it's not impossible, he said. After hearing the calls, he also said the caller could be using technology to paint a false picture of who the suspect is.
"It could be a voice anonymizer, where you can sound like—mask your voice," Trombitas said. "And sometimes people do that so they, it doesn’t, it isn’t obvious that it’s them."
Even with the flood of swatting calls, the former FBI agent said that police took each as a serious threat and should continue to do so on any future reports.
"There’s no halfway response on these things," Trombitas said. "Because you don’t want to be in a position where you thought, ‘Oh, it must be just another hoax call,' and so you don’t respond like you would."
Additionally, any future swatting calls could actually further assist investigators in finding the person behind them, according to Trombitas.
"It’s like working a serial murder case," Trombitas said. "You may not have the answer in one case, but there’s another case and you pick up more information from that – more evidence. The more things happen, the more information law enforcement has to work with."