Dowagiac police investigating hoax 911 call

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Local authorities are investigating a false report of a school shooting made to Cass County Dispatch that resulted in officers being sent to several Dowagiac schools Tuesday morning.

According to police, the dispatch center received a call from a mobile phone user in the Dowagiac vicinity around 10 a.m. The person placing the call, who dispatchers described as a “younger individual,” told authorities that there was a “shooting at the school” before laughing and hanging up.

As the caller did not specify which school they were referring to, the Dowagiac Police Department dispatched officers to Dowagiac Union High School, Dowagiac Middle School, and Patrick Hamilton, Justus Gage and Kincheloe elementary schools to assess the safety of students.

“We thought it wasn’t a real creditable threat, but we wanted to make sure the schools were OK,” said Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald.

The officers determined there was no threat to any of the local school buildings following interior and exterior sweep of the buildings, the police chief said.

Both police and the Dowagiac Union Schools administration determined that, based off the lack of credibility of the hoax phone call, a lockdown of the schools was not necessary, Grinnewald said. However, the district did send out a prerecorded phone message informing parents of the phone call and of the police search of the buildings.

“Even when we don’t think there is a serious threat to students, we want to be transparent and let parents know what is going on,” said Deputy Superintendent Dawn Connor.

At the moment, police have little information about who could have made the false report, as the cell phone number used to place the call is no longer in service, Grinnewald said. They will continue to work with the district to follow up on any leads into the identity of the caller, who could face criminal charges if caught.

“It’s not good old fun and games,” Grinnewald said about prank 911 callers. “We expend a lot of resources. The school expends a lot of resources, and it panics a lot of people…we take it very seriously, and we would like to know the who and why.”