Fake active shooter reports at California schools spur investigations, authorities say

An overhead shot of cars in a road and people walking near them.
L.A. County sheriff’s deputies and parents gather outside Lancaster High School in the Antelope Valley as police respond to reports of an active shooter.

Police were investigating a string of reports of active shooters or threats to several California schools on Wednesday, but the calls were quickly determined to be hoaxes and students are safe, authorities said.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that while investigations are continuing, the FBI has gathered information that shows a possible link between a dozen false reports at schools across California and Texas in recent days.

In California on Wednesday, there were reports of shootings, lockdowns or evacuations at Lancaster High School in the Antelope Valley, Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista, Gibson Elementary and Bullard High School in Fresno and Santa Rosa High School.


The hoaxes were all similar: A single person called 911 and made reports of an active shooter and, in some cases, people injured. The calls led to lockdowns and evacuations, spreading fear among students, parents and teachers, before police were able to search the campuses.

“My child and her classmates huddled at their teacher’s feet for 40 minutes today,” one person commented on Twitter. “This is terrifying and not OK.”

Police arrived to quiet campuses and no signs of a threat.

At Bishop Garcia Diego High School in Santa Barbara, dozens of police officers and deputies swarmed to the scene about 1 p.m. They found no sign of an emergency, such as fleeing students or additional 911 calls, said Ethan Ragsdale, a spokesman with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Officers searched the campus inside and out and deemed the school safe within half an hour, he said.

Around the same time, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department received a call about a threat at Lancaster High School. The school was placed on lockdown before officials confirmed there was no evidence of a shooting.

The Fresno Police Department received a similar call shortly before noon. Police arrived at Gibson Elementary and Bullard High within minutes, said Bill Dooley, a police spokesman.


“They hit Madera [Calif.] yesterday and they hit us today,” Dooley said. “The investigation is still taking place, and we are working with local, state and federal departments to see if we can track down who the individual is.”

Dooley added that other reports have been made across the nation, including Florida and Texas.

Similar threats were reported in Chula Vista’s Mater Dei high school and Santa Rosa High School. Those were quickly confirmed fake too, officials said.

The fake calls appear to have begun before Wednesday.

They followed a similar hoax at Hollywood High School on Tuesday morning, when someone reported an active shooter and six victims down. The school went on lockdown, stirring fear in some students who ran and hid, fearing the worst.

Officers entered the campus with guns drawn, searching for any victims or suspects.

But school staff, instead of pointing the police toward an emergency, met officers with puzzled looks.

“They just kind of looked at us like, ‘What’s going on?’” said Lt. Nina Buranasombati, a school police spokesperson.