A Bakersfield man has been arrested after authorities say his false call about an active shooter put an area hospital on an hours-long lockdown Tuesday.
Police said Mario Thompson, 46, called Bakersfield Memorial Hospital to report an active shooter, sending the hospital and the surrounding area into a panic. The hospital was put on lockdown while police searched the area, but no evidence of an actual shooting was found, said Sgt. Brian Holcombe, a spokesman for the Bakersfield Police Department.
As soon as the initial call came in, the hospital operator sent an emergency alert to staff and police were called to the scene, authorities said. The police department also received a second call about a shooter in the parking lot near the hospital’s emergency room.
Investigators later learned the call was made from inside the hospital, and staff directed police to Thompson, who was near the building that day.
Hospital security said Thompson had identified himself as a police officer during the incident. Police said he was wearing a security badge and trying to insert himself into the officers’ investigation.
When questioned by officers, Thompson told them he was a security guard at the hospital, but staff told police he was not an employee.
Thompson was arrested on suspicion of reporting a false emergency, being a felon in possession of pepper spray and impersonating an officer, among other charges.
He also is suspected of falsely reporting an active shooter at Mercy Southwest Hospital on Aug. 1, police said. Much like Tuesday’s incident, the Mercy Southwest call prompted a swarm of police activity and area lockdowns, including at nearby Cal State Bakersfield.
Hoax calls to emergency services, a practice known as “swatting,” have had deadly consequences in the past. A Los Angeles man was charged with manslaughter after prosecutors said he made a prank call that resulted in the fatal police shooting of an innocent man in Kansas.
The FBI estimates roughly 400 swatting cases occur annually.