Today’s false alarm call that there was an active shooter on the loose at Bishop Diego High School in Santa Barbara was one of five hoax calls made today involving California schools. The FBI is investigating these calls as part of a possible coordinated action, but no such determination has been made. “Whether these are related, we don’t know yet,” said Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police. “But potentially they are.” Ragsdale said nearly 100 law enforcement officers were immediately dispatched to Bishop Diego High School when the 9-1-1 call came in shortly before 1 p.m. alerting dispatchers that an active shooting was taking place. “It was an all-hands-on-deck, Code Three lights-and-sirens call,” Ragsdale said. It took law enforcement about half an hour to inspect the school’s interior and exterior to determine that no active shooter was, in fact, present.
Students were quickly evacuated to the parking lot of Sansum Clinic’s nearby medical offices on Pesetas Lane. A headcount established that all students had been accounted for. “I’m just so grateful it was a false alarm,” Ragsdale stated. “But whoever caused these students to be so stressed and terrified is absolutely terrible.”
Hope School, located nearby, also went on lockdown in response.
According to the Los Angeles Times, four reports of shootings, lockdowns, and evacuations were made Wednesday before noon: one at Lancaster High School in Antelope Valley, one at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista, one at Gibson Elementary in Fresno, and one in Santa Rosa High School. According to that report, the hoaxes all involved a single 9-1-1 call to each school. In some calls, there were reports of shooter; in others, of people injured. Ragsdale did not release the specific text of the caller’s message. A similar hoax played out this Tuesday at Hollywood High School. In that call, the caller reported six people had been hurt.
According to Ragsdale, law enforcement officers train how to respond to active shooter scenarios: The first four officers at the scene enter the building and initiate the search. The fifth on the scene establishes a command post outside, from which resources are deployed and communications are relayed. Ragsdale said that the Santa Barbara Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and the UCSB Police Department were all involved in the response. Sheriff’s deputies assigned to Goleta were deployed to Bishop Diego and officers with UCSB-PD backfilled them in Goleta. As a result, Ragsdale said, people who needed law enforcement attention at the time had to wait. “If you could have seen the faces of those kids as they were being evacuated from school, it was really sad,” Ragsdale said.
Similar hoaxes have taken place in Texas as well in recent days, and the FBI is investigating a possible link by what the L.A. Times described as “a dozen false reports.”