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‘Swatting’ police call to UNR one of many across U.S. campuses this week


The University of Nevada, Reno is one of many schools being targeted in “swatting” incidents taking place across the country this week. Schools in Texas, Illinois and Oklahoma were also targeted.

Swatting is a criminal activity that involves calling in a false threat to draw an emergency response. It is often used as a tactic to harass an innocent target. Calling in a false threat is a crime. 

A false report of an active shooter on Sunday drew police from several agencies to the University of Nevada, Reno campus, according to an email sent Thursday to UNR employees. 

University Police Chief Eric James said the incident, which was called into 911 as an active shooter situation, turned out to not be an actual threat. 

University Police Chief Eric James.
University Police Chief Eric James.

“The University Police Department and our regional public safety partners respond to every call as if it’s a real threat,” James said. 

James shared a timeline of Sunday evening’s events, which began with a call to a non-emergency line at the Regional Dispatch Center at 8:24 p.m. The caller claimed to be hiding in the UNR library and said two people were shooting in the quad. 

Police in the area on another call hadn’t heard any shots fired, nor did students in nearby buildings, the timeline noted. 

After an assessment of the situation, officers concluded nothing unusual seemed to be taking place on campus and did a “slow clear” of the area to search for any potential assailants. 

None were found. Police cleared the campus and returned to regular patrols by 8:45 p.m.

James said he was thankful for cooperation from the campus community, including numerous students who helped officers assess the situation. 

The Associated Press reported in March that swatting calls to U.S. schools – both K-12 and higher education campuses – are increasingly common. Just this week Illinois State Police received 21 school-related swatting calls on Wednesday and Texas officials responded to seven swatting calls to college campuses on Thursday. 

A swatting call targeting the University of Oklahoma, also on Sunday, is thought to have come from outside the U.S.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), this week held a press conference in Troy, New York, on school swatting incidents and the impacts on communities. 

“Let me just tell you how traumatizing these are,” Sen. Schumer said, speaking of students and teachers having to react to a potential active shooter. “The trauma does not go away. It stays with us, so this is a real and serious problem.”  

Schumer proposed a full FBI investigation on the rash of swatting calls across the country, increased budget to fund FBI personnel and cyberwork follow up on swatting calls and a tracking system to gather data and analyze swatting calls. 

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.