Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Marion, Fall River Schools Receive Threats
A series of threatening phone calls were placed to SouthCoast schools this afternoon, including one to Dartmouth’s Joseph DeMello Elementary School.
The call came into the DeMello School at just about 2:20 p.m.
According to Dartmouth Police Detective Kyle Costa, similar calls were received in Marion, Fall River and Fairhaven.
“It seems like it was the exact same call in all four areas,” he said. “The voice sounded like a young female, who called and spoke directly to the principal, saying that her brother was going to shoot up the school and that he was on his way there.”
Lt. Kevin Kobza of the Fairhaven Police Department told WBSM that the call in that town was placed to the East Fairhaven Elementary School.
Det. Costa said it appears to be an incident of “swatting,” in which a prank call is made to emergency services, attempting to draw a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.
“The male has been a victim of ‘swatting’ eight times in New Bedford and Dartmouth in the past month,” he said.
There was also a “swatting” case in Taunton back on March 11 in which a male caller told dispatchers he had murdered his girlfriend and was intending to then harm himself.
In an email to parents this afternoon, Dartmouth Schools Superintendent Dr. Bonny Gifford wrote that when Wednesday’s call was received, all schools in the district were notified “directing everyone to ensure all students and staff were brought inside and doors remained locked.”
“This has not been deemed to be a credible threat at this time but as always, we took proactive measures to ensure staff and student safety,” she wrote.
Det. Costa said any such calls are handled “with an abundance of caution.”
“We treat it as if it was real until we know it’s not,” he said. “We had every available officer, including our two School Resource Officers, go to every single elementary school until the kids were picked up by a parent.”
In Marion, the Sippican School received a call at approximately 3:30 p.m. – after school had already let out for the day, but there were still some students there as part of the school’s extended day program – in which the caller “made non-specific threats against the school,” according to a joint release from Superintendent Michael S. Nelson and Marion Police Chief Richard B. Nighelli.
Marion Police responded to the school, securing the scene as the remaining students were picked up and then conducting a sweep of the building. There will also be an additional police presence at the school on Thursday.
In 2017, there were similar incidents in the area when a New Bedford woman made threats to 25 different government bodies, law enforcement agencies, schools and universities, stating her boyfriend was going to shoot up the locations.