Utah authorities investigate false threats, unfounded shooting calls made to at least 5 schools

The schools activated safety protocols as a precaution as police responded.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ogden High School was one of at least five schools in Utah that received unfounded threats and false shooting calls on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, prompting police responses.

At least five schools throughout Utah on Wednesday received unfounded threats and false shooting calls, prompting police responses and leaving teachers, students and parents “traumatized,” one official said.

“That is not OK,” Deputy Fire Chief Shelby Willis with the Ogden Fire Department said, speaking of a false shooting call made to Ogden High School on Wednesday. “We have to be better than this as human beings.”

The source of the unsubstantiated calls remained unknown as of Wednesday morning. No one was physically hurt, authorities said.

The series of separate calls in Utah came days after a person in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday shot through the doors of a Christian elementary school, killing three children and three adults.

“These calls are taken very seriously and are immediately looked into by enforcement agencies,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a statement. A spokesperson for the agency said the department is communicating with local law enforcement agencies as they continue to investigate.

Ogden High School went into lockdown Wednesday morning after the call that was later determined to be false, according to a statement from Lane Findlay, Weber School District’s community relations and safety specialist.

The high school as well as some of the district’s other schools all went into “security protocol” as a precaution.

“We want you to know that all of our schools are safe and will keep you updated on the situation,” the statement read.

In Salt Lake City, police received a 911 call about a “possible active shooter” at West High School that authorities determined to be unfounded. Salt Lake City students are currently on spring break, police noted, but officers still responded to the school and secured the building.

“We are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies to further investigate this and other unfounded active shooter reports,” Salt Lake City police said Wednesday.

In Utah County, Provo High School also went on lockdown Wednesday after what was later determined to be an unsubstantiated bomb threat, according to Provo City School District spokesperson Caleb Price. Police cleared the building, and once authorities found the call to be a hoax, students resumed class.

Spanish Fork High School was also the subject of a false report of an active shooter.

“Police responded quickly and lock down protocol was immediately put into place,” Spanish Fork police, fire and EMS reported. “Police have swept the building and have deemed it safe.”

In southern Utah, Washington County School District also received an unspecified threat that turned out to be a hoax, said Steven Dunham, spokesperson for the school district. Police quickly cleared the building. Further details about the nature of the threat weren’t immediately provided.

Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen said Wednesday afternoon that such hoax calls don’t happen often.

“I’m very grateful that no students, no staff [were] injured,” he said. “It could’ve been a horrific event. But this is a great opportunity for us to learn as well, and we’re going to do a review of this and make sure that we are always continuing to get better.”

A Weber County trauma team met with students at Ogden High following the false call on Wednesday, Rasmussen said. Resources will also be available for staff and students on Thursday.

The Utah Department of Public Safety advised the public to remain calm as authorities investigate.

“We are currently looking into the origin of these calls,” the agency said.