Authorities investigate after hoax shooting call

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

September 21, 2022

A false report of a shooting at Whitney Elementary School initiated a district-wide lockdown and a multi-agency law enforcement response Tuesday afternoon, September 13.

The Hill County Sheriff’s Office was notified at 4:24 p.m. after a call came in to the Bosque County Sheriff’s Office from what authorities called a “9-1-1 only phone” stating that a teacher had been shot and that the caller, who was reportedly in the second grade, was hiding in a closet.

Two Whitney police officers arrived at 4:25 p.m. and were let inside by school officials as deputies and a SWAT team from the sheriff’s office were also en route, along with law enforcement officers from multiple other agencies.

Although it was after regular school hours for students, all Whitney campuses were placed on lockdown for anyone still on site.

After the first police officers were let inside by staff, additional deputies broke a glass door to gain entry to the locked school.

According to the sheriff’s office, a preliminary search was completed at 4:27 p.m., and authorities determined that there was not an active shooter, but many locked classrooms had not been cleared. After obtaining keys from a staff member who had been evacuated to a nearby location, authorities continued searching the campus.

Law enforcement completed additional waves of searches according to protocol, and campuses were released from lockdown at 5:53 p.m.

While there were several other false reports made in Texas the same day, local officials discovered that the Whitney call was made by two minors and was unrelated to the other incidents.

Superintendent John McCullough thanked law enforcement and praised the staff of the elementary school for their handling of the incident.

“Law enforcement was there very quickly,” the superintendent said. “They came in and were very responsive and helpful in securing and helping people out of the building.”

In a press release, the sheriff’s office also commended the staff. “It is important to mention that upon making entry into some of the locked classrooms, law enforcement encountered educators armed with chairs or anything they could find, ready to attack in defense of themselves and the children.”

McCullough said that while it was after school hours, several children were in the building with their parents who work at the school.

“Although it was determined to be a hoax, all law enforcement personnel responded in a timely and efficient manner,” the sheriff’s office reported. “The school personnel and students who were present for after-school activities did an outstanding job—they followed their plan and instructions given to them by law enforcement.”

McCullough said that the district will conduct a review of the situation, and one thing that Whitney ISD will continue to work on is improving communication and getting information out in a timely manner.

“We take the safety of our students very seriously with all of the protocols we have in place,” the superintendent said. “We feel like we have a very safe and secure environment, but there are always things that can happen, and we are always trying to improve and make sure we keep our students and staff as safe as we can.”

In a press release, the sheriff’s office said that the situation was a testament to how these situations will be handled in Hill County. “If you harm or threaten to harm our children or the staff that teach them, we will come in and immediately address the threat.”

Law enforcement and other assistance at the scene came from: Whitney Police Department, Hill County Sheriff’s Office, Hill County precinct 2, 3 and 4 constables, the Department of Public Safety, Hillsboro Police Department, West Police Department, McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, CareFlite, Whitney Fire Rescue and a special investigator with the Hill County District Attorney’s Office.

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