Local schools hit by "swatting" effort

FMHS, other state schools put in lockdown status


This story has been updated to include information from FMPD Chief Mark Rohloff

FORT MADISON – Area law enforcement were put on high alert as part of what state officials are calling a coordinated “swatting” incident in the state Tuesday morning.

Fort Madison police, along with Lee County Sheriff’s deputies, were dispatched to Fort Madison High School at around 10 a.m Tuesday morning on a report of a gunman inside the school.

Law enforcement on the scene couldn’t comment on the situation, but said precautionary measures were taking place and students were still sheltered in place at about 10:25.

Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber confirmed at the scene the incident was part of a “swatting” coordination across the state and law enforcement were monitoring the situation.

Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said the FBI is now involved in the investigation into the coordinated effort.

"Shortly after 10:00 AM this morning, our department responded to a call of an active shooter at the Fort Madison High School. A lock down occurred, and officers conducted a systematic search of the building. It was learned that nothing unusual was observed on the premises prior
to the report. As time progressed, it became known that other school districts in southeast Iowa, including Central Lee and Keokuk, received similar calls. Working with district officials, protocols were followed to insure there was no risk to students before resuming daily activities.
The department’s school resource officer will remain posted at the high school throughout the day," Rohloff said.

"The Fort Madison Community School District will issue a joint press release of the incident. Because of the magnitude of multiple false calls prompting law enforcement action state-wide, specific details are being withheld pending investigation by the FBI.

"We are thankful for the assistance rendered by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and other first responders who provided support at the scene."

Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater released the following statement at around noon Tuesday.

"We have been made aware of anonymous “swatting calls” being made today to law enforcement agencies across the nation, including our district, referencing active shooter situations in schools," she wrote.

"We have been in contact with our local law enforcement. FMPD and the Lee County Sheriff’s office actively responded to FMHS to ensure that all students and staff were safe. FMHS was on a brief lockdown while law enforcement conducted a thorough search.

"They have confirmed that the call was not credible and have been told there is no reason for concern at this time. All students and staff are safe, and learning continues as normal in our buildings."

Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier said Central Lee officials were also doing extra sweeps at schools on campus, but said learning is continuing.

“We have been made aware of anonymous “swatting” calls being made today to schools and law enforcement agencies across Iowa, including in Central Lee. The calls reference a threat to school safety,” Crozier wrote in a statement to district families Tuesday morning.

“We have been in contact with local law enforcement officials, who have confirmed that the calls are not credible. All students and staff are safe and learning will proceed as usual today.”

Crozier said swatting involves calls made to law enforcement or directly to schools, businesses, public libraries, or other entitles where the public gathers. They are an attempt to cause disruptions by dispatching emergency services to a particular address.

“Please know that we take this situation very seriously. The safety of our students and staff remains our number one priority. We are working closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation.”

Crozier said Central Lee was never in a student lockdown Tuesday morning.

An article in the Des Moines Register Tuesday said more than 30 school districts across the state received 911 calls ranging from guns reported at the school, to gunmen in the school to students being shot.

Governor Kim Reynolds and Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens said there was no legitimacy to the calls and no evidence supporting the calls had been uncovered at any of the districts.

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