OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — “Grateful.” That was one of the most-used words in a press conference today by Ogden city and school officials after Ogden High was one of a number of victims of school shooting hoaxes across Utah.
The other main word was “trauma.”
Ogden Police Lt. Will Farr said officers responded to the school shortly after 9:30 a.m. this morning following the hoax call to 911. The report that came to the 911 dispatcher was that there was an active shooter and that several students “were down.” That turned out not to be true, which is why officials unanimously agreed that they were “grateful.”
“What I’d like to say is, while I’m so grateful that there were no injuries, and we’re able to talk about this in a different light, we have students, teachers, parents, and family members that are now traumatized as a result of this incident,” said Ogden Fire Department Deputy Chief Shelby Willis.
Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said he’s received a number of phone calls from parents in the aftermath of the hoax.
“Most of all, I want you to know that we have received — the mayor and I and others have received calls from tearful parents who are having a lot of trauma today because of the fears that they’ve been through as a result of this incident,” said Johnson.
How officials responded
Ogden Police Capt. Tim Scott said Ogden High had a school resource officer (SRO) on duty as the call came in this morning. That officer, he said, has specific SWAT tactical training for just such an emergency.
Scott said the school immediately went on lockdown and the SRO coordinated responses between police and the fire department as he began “actively hunting” for supposed shooter. As SWAT teams responded, they cleared each room across the school, even as it became apparent that there was no shooter.
“At the end of the day, there was a full county response,” said Scott. “We had almost every agency accounted for at Ogden High.”
Scott also said a mobile tactical analysis center was on campus with live camera feeds being watched as police scoured the school. Officials did not have a headcount of how many first responders were on the scene.
Scott said police are now working with federal officials to determine the source of the call. At the moment, it is unknown whether the call was placed by someone local or from out of state. Because at least one of the schools on the hoax list today was closed for spring break — West High in Salt Lake City — it could be possible that the calls came from an out-of-state actor.
How the school responded
Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen said when schools go into lockdown, students are held in the room where they are until law enforcement clears the building. It was briefly considered that other schools in the city should be locked down, but Rasmussen said officials figured out the hoax first, making other lockdowns unnecessary. Students were released from class for the rest of the day.
Rasmussen said the school’s trauma team was on-hand for students who did not immediately have a ride home. Trauma specialists will also be on-hand tomorrow, March 30, for students and faculty. He also stated how proud he was of the Ogden High community for how they handled the situation. He urged parents to make sure they’re following the school district’s social media channels and apps for clear communication.
In the meantime, Rasmussen said today’s incident was reassuring since it was a strong test of the community’s capabilities in responding to such a possible tragedy. Both he and Johnson praised first responders for their quick and decisive response.
“I am grateful for our police officers who, with no hesitation, were in that school and searching and clearing that school at their own risk, not knowing it was a hoax,” said Johnson. “I’m impressed with that kind of bravery amongst our police officers. I respect that a great deal, and I thank them.”