COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After a series of false active shooter phone calls to Ohio schools on Friday, a former FBI agent said the callers could be tracked and held accountable.
Former FBI agent Harry Trombitas said tracking the callers who made false active shooter reports — also known as swatting — would be “difficult, in some cases, but not impossible.” Trombitas said the FBI has developed a variety of means to track ‘anonymous’ calls very quickly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re able to hold the person or persons responsible for this accountable,” said Trombitas. “You are not anonymous, there are ways to track you back.”
Ohio law enforcement responded to false active shooter reports in 11 Ohio cities on Friday, including in the areas of Newark, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. At the reported active shooter incident at Licking Valley High School, the sheriff’s office and Newark police both emphasized there were no shots fired, and no injuries.
With the threats determined "bogus," the next step for law enforcement is to investigate who called them in. The Ohio Department of Public Safety said in a release Friday afternoon that its Ohio School Safety Center is working with the Statewide Terrorism Analysis and Crime Center to begin that investigation. Trombitas said students and teachers will probably be interviewed.
“Oftentimes, these cases aren’t committed in a vacuum and there’s somebody that usually knows [someone] was going to try to pull this off," Trombitas said.
Trombitas said the crime can be punishable at the federal level. He hopes holding these callers accountable makes the public aware of the consequences, deterring future swatting calls.
“It’s very unfortunate and it's wrong in so many ways,” said Trombitas. “It makes no sense to do anything like this.”