Law enforcement respond to school threats across Maine

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:20 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Local, state and federal law enforcement were at schools around the state within minutes after active shooter threats.

These threats thankfully turned out to be a hoax but not after agencies executed emergency responses and students, parents and staff were shaken up emotionally.

It was a stressful morning as this unfolded across the state at 10 schools including Gardiner Area High School and Sanford High School.

Law enforcement responded to the reports at these two schools like this was an active shooter -- a caller telling Gardiner dispatch there were multiple injuries, which all later turned out to not be true.

Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck spoke at a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning saying to those responsible, we’re coming after you.

“These are callous and inhumane acts against our kids, against our residents against these parents,” said Sauschuck.

A morning that began as a nightmare for dispatchers, law enforcement and schools around the state ended with unsettled relief as law enforcement and school officials explained how they determined active shooter threats turned out to be hoaxes.

”Quite a day for us here in Sanford. As the chief mentioned, it’s very difficult when you’re the first one in a situation like this. First of all, I’m glad that it wasn’t credible. That it was a hoax. That being said, I’m incredibly proud to be the superintendent of Sanford, incredibly proud of our students, and our staff and their response with our community and with our public safety,” said Sanford Superintendent Matthew Nelson.

According to officials, a call came into the Sanford Regional Communications Center around 8:30 a.m. from an untraceable number.

Dispatch got a call saying there was an active shooter dressed in black clothes with a gun on the first floor of the high school.

The caller told authorities they were locked in a staff room.

”Stressful, very scary to start but once we realized what was going on, it was a lot calmer. We were able to text back and worth, so I knew he was okay,” said Tom Miscio, a Sanford Father.

”I wasn’t really told that there was a shooter or anything I was just told that someone was in the building and then we had to put the table up and hide,” said Nick Miscio, Sanford High School student.

”If it’s real and not if it’s a hoax. I mean, it’s all just ridiculous. It’s nice to see him safe, it is scary,” said Mellacent Thibault, a parent.

The schools want to help support those who are struggling emotionally.

”I don’t wish this on anyone. But at the same time it’s gratifying to know that we’re going to be able to move forward and also be in a situation where there wasn’t a tragedy.“

”If you commit a crime like this in the state of Maine, we’re going to come after you and we’re coming after you with our partners at the federal level. Everybody in this state is heavily plugged in and heavily invested in an outcome. So we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to do it the right way every single time. And if this happens again, tomorrow, we hope it doesn’t. You’re gonna see this same level of response. Officers will respond. They will go through the door and they will protect,” said Sauschuck.

Social media saw what turned out to be false information spread like wildfire Tuesday morning as those reports came in.

John Michaud spent 25 years working for NCIS.

He’s now the Director of Legal Studies at Husson University.

He had this to say about how to handle things like Tuesday online.

“If you do get that information, I think even if you’re not sure it’s true, it’s worth a call to the police, but you don’t need to spread it. Call somebody who is in a position to do something,” he said.

Where do you think we go from here? If you’re in one of these schools where this did happen today, what happens next?

“Don’t think the next one is a false call. You have to react like it’s a real call. God would say we never want to see one, but you have to react. You can’t say well, last week, it was all false. So, we just won’t bother with the next one. You can’t can’t do it. And certainly the police departments won’t do it,” he said.

Michaud also stressed the old adage see something, say something.

While Tuesday turned out to be false calls, he says in past tragedies when people have peeled back on what led up to the events, warning signs were there.