Schools across Nebraska targeted in swatting calls; authorities urge submitting tips

Omaha high school among several in the Midwest recently targeted by false threat reports
Several Nebraska schools were the victims of "SWATting" calls Thursday morning.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 9:10 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Law enforcement and school officials across Nebraska have been coordinating Thursday to respond to multiple false reports of violence at several schools across the state.

Omaha Police told 6 News on Thursday morning that the report of a shooting at Omaha South appeared to be an incident of “swatting.” That turned out to be one of several reported across the region.

Swatting is when a prank call is made in an attempt to bring a large response from law enforcement. In Nebraska, it is considered a crime.

“Nebraska is the greatest place to live. It’s the greatest place for kids to live, and today’s outside attacks — trying to disrupt us — were obviously not successful,” Gov. Jim Pillen said during a Thursday afternoon news conference alongside state law enforcement officials and experts.

Can you help? Authorities are asking anyone with information about Thursday’s swatting calls to contact the Nebraska Information Analysis Center, an division of the Nebraska State Patrol, at 888-580-6422 or submit an online tip via the NIAC suspicious activity report site at

“There is no call that isn’t important. If you have a concern, please make the call, please go online, please let us know,” Dr. Mario Scalora said during Thursday’s news conference.

NSP Col. John Bolduc led the news conference, which included additional information from NIAC Director Lt. Monty Lovelace, who said that the informational division raised awareness with law enforcement and school officials ahead of Thursday’s spate of erroneous reports.

“This morning’s swatting calls follow a pattern that we’ve been seeing throughout the country (in recent years),” Lovelace said.

NIAC sent out a bulletin on Monday, he said, noting that activity in other states indicated that Nebraska schools might be a target of “spamming” calls.

“None of these were credible, and there have been no security issues at schools associated with any of these calls,” he said.

Jay Martin, safety coordinator with the Nebraska Department of Education, talked about training activities that it has with school districts across the state.

Martin said the latest example of this type of training featured reunification training with a Colorado organization called the I Love You Guys Foundation, which helps establish “standard response protocol,” known as SRP.

Training like this — utilized in schools across the country — provides protocols and common language among law enforcement and school officials to make sure that communication is efficient during crisis situations, he said.

“Fortunately, our schools and our law enforcement agencies across the state responded appropriately,” Bolduc said. “There was a disruption in learning today, but the good news is our kids are safe, learning is continuing. We will gather as much information as we can from these incidents and conduct a thorough investigation to see if we can determine from where these calls originated and hold people accountable.”

NSP said in a release ahead of the news conference that the calls had “distinct similarities” to calls received by schools in other states, pointing to the use of VOIP technology in order to obscure the identity of the caller or even where they might be calling from.

The voice on the calls used a foreign accent, or mocking a foreign accent, authorities said. They mispronounced school or town names, and had background noise resembling a call center.

Bolduc said that in the aftermath of these calls, they received reports of students texting their parents “I’m afraid,” and said that students and teachers began barricading and locking doors.

“These are the appropriate responses, but the fear and trauma that has resulted from this criminal action is almost incomprehensible,” Bolduc said.

The governor underscored that point as well during his contribution to the news conference.

“A lot of families, a lot of kids, a lot of teachers have been victimized. It’s a 100% unacceptable behavior,” he said.

“It’s really really important that we hold these people accountable,” the governor said during Thursday’s news conference, encouraging anyone who might hear “whispers” of information getting passed around to call it in to the NIAC tip line.

Most of the reports that came in Thursday morning claimed there were active shooters at high schools, including Omaha South High School, Lincoln High School, and Fremont High School, where the caller said they were in a school building witnessing a shooting; as well as in Hastings, Grand Island, Kearney, Gering, and at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, where the police there were told that three people had been shot inside a specific room at the school.

In a joint statement from Fremont Police and Fremont Public Schools, authorities said the “unsubstantiated and phony” calls did not prompt a large police response.

“The information the caller shared did not rise to the level of concern necessitating a more aggressive response because the information was not in line with our staff, building structure or other specifics related to our school,” the release states.

Still, authorities responded to the high school out of an abundance of caution.

“All of our students and staff are safe,” the statement said. “No learning has been disrupted and business is operating in our buildings as usual.”

The City of Kearney issued a similar statement on behalf of local law enforcement and schools.

“All KPS students and staff at the schools are safe. No learning has been disrupted and business is operating as usual,” the statement says.

NSP on Thursday said they were made aware earlier this week about a series of swatting calls that had been reported in several states just this year, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Texas, and Vermont.

Similar calls were also reported Thursday in Bismarck and in Fargo, N.D. Other such incidents were recently reported in Michigan, a cluster in Minnesota, and several across 17 school districts in Colorado, as well.

“That bulletin advised local agencies to be prepared in the event the calls target Nebraska schools, which is occurring today,” the NSP release states, noting that NSP has been assisting local law enforcement agencies and school districts that receive these calls.

Omaha wasn't the only target of hoax shooting calls today -- it's happening in a handful of other states.

The 10 different incidents that unfolded Thursday had some similarities, which authorities said helped them identify the trend more quickly. In many cases, there were no visible signs upon arrival of a threat happening inside the buildings.

Bolduc said that while swatting calls do waste resources and are designed to disrupt and misuse emergency services, calls like this do provide an opportunity for agencies to test their notification and response systems.

He said that “it is challenging but not impossible” to identify where the calls are coming from.

National agencies have been monitoring trends for the last several months. Multiple states experienced these calls last week, which allowed for analysis and notification of law enforcement — and school officials — in neighboring states.

The motives for these sorts of incidents can vary. Some may think themselves clever, or they might simply enjoy causing disruption or widespread anxiety. Authorities say they didn’t want to delve too far into potential motives so as not to “telegraph” any sort of information about their ongoing investigation into the calls.


What started as a normal morning for Omaha South High School students and staff Thursday turned into what many fear the most.

A report of an active shooter at the school.

Omaha South High School became one of several targets of shooting hoax calls Thursday.

“The alarm was going off for 20 or 30 minutes,” student Bbenita Diaz told 6 News. “We were sitting in the back, and the teacher was like — I thought it was a procedure but the teacher looked super worried, saying, ‘No guys. I think it’s real.’”

Omaha police and fire units were called to Omaha South High School, located at 24th and K streets, at about 8:15 a.m. Thursday after someone called 911 claiming there had been a shooting.

Police swept and cleared the building several times and found nothing.

School officials said the school went into lockdown for about 45 minutes. It was lifted once the situation was determined to be a false alarm.

“Officers immediately entered the school, conducted a search of the entire school, and determined that no shooting had occurred and there were no injuries or victims,” OPD Officer Michael Pecha said. “At that point, they determined it was a prank call.”

A prank call that sent some parents to the school to get their children home.

“I just do it for myself and her safety because they’re not safe anywhere, you know; and the only person that could help her is myself as a parent. It’s sad to say, but it’s true,” said Benita’s mom, Marsela.

Benita Diaz said she’s now thinking twice about going back to school Friday.

“School is supposed to be a safe place where kids feel safe, but when things like this happen obviously parents and students don’t feel safe,” she said.

OPD said that once they find where the call came from and who it was, the person could face criminal prosecution.

But for now, they’re glad to know the situation was nothing more than a false alarm.

“We will continue to investigate, but it is a relief that we’re not investigating something more serious,” Pecha said.

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.

Reporter Taylor Johnson and Managing Editor Kevin Westhues contributed to this report.