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Shooting threat forces lockdown at Billings West High School

Similar threats investigated in several Montana cities
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Posted at 9:58 AM, Dec 09, 2022

Update 11:30 a.m.

The Billings Police Department issued this press release:

On December 9th, at approximately 9:30 AM, Billings Police Department dispatch center received a call of an individual with a firearm at West High. Officers were immediately dispatched to the area and the school administration was notified. The school was placed on lockdown and BPD officers arrived on scene very quickly and began a search of the school and grounds. The school had been cleared by 9:39 AM and no suspect was located, and no incident had taken place at the school. Yellowstone County Deputies assisted in the response by responding to other School district 2 schools to make sure all schools had appropriate resources.

The initial investigation indicates the caller used applications with the intention of concealing their identity. The investigation has been turned over to the BPD Investigations unit and will continue to be investigated.

The BPD would like the public to know that we take all these reports seriously and will investigate each incident to the fullest of our capabilities.

Billings School Superintendent Greg Upham released this statement:

Parents, Guardians, and Staff

I want to provide an update of the sequence of events and the response regarding this morning's lockdown at West High.

Sequence of Events

At approximately 9:30 a.m., the Billings Police Department (BPD) dispatch received a phone call stating there was a shooting in the math wing at Billings West High School. The BPD immediately contacted the West High School Resource Officer (SRO).

At approximately 9:33 a.m., the West High SRO placed the building in a precautionary lockdown. BPD and building administration conducted a safety check of the building; no evidence of any safety concerns was discovered.

At approximately 9:45 a.m., the lockdown was lifted.

The BPD has since verified that Bozeman, Helena, Red Lodge, and Forsyth received similar phone call threats. These have all been determined to be false threats, as we are also receiving information that prior to today, similar threats were called into communities/school districts in the state of Georgia. This term is coined as 'swatting.'

As a precaution, there will be an increased police presence at our high schools and middle schools throughout the day.

Many of you and your students, along with our school community, are rightfully experiencing concern and trepidation regarding the situations and threats our school district has experienced, especially over the course of the last week and half. I am receiving questions regarding the use of metal detectors. In a conversation today with Secure Education Consultants, a nationally renowned school safety expert firm, (who visited our district last year and helped us craft our current safety plan) it was reaffirmed that metal detectors are not an effective deterrent to school shootings. Rather, the best course of action is creating and sustaining a culture of trusting relationships between adults and students that cultivates the sharing of any safety concerns. In an effort to address these significant issues, we as an entire community need to talk about, educate, and support each other, which includes students, to mitigate and eliminate these types of threats. I want you to know that I take this seriously and want to reassure everyone that this is my highest priority.

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Update 10:15 a.m.

BILLINGS - Billings school officials said on social media the lockdown has been lifted and the school is operating "under normal conditions."

Here's the entire statement released on the Billings Public Schools Facebook page:

Parents and Guardians,

At approximately 9:25 a.m. West High went into a precautionary lockdown, due to a phone call threat received by the Billings Police Department. BPD and administration conducted a safety check of the building and did not find any safety concerns. The lockdown has been lifted and the building is operating under normal conditions.

Law enforcement in Red Lodge, Miles City, Forsyth, Missoula, Helena, and Manhattan also investigated similar threats Friday morning and found no evidence the threats were credible.

The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office said the threats appear to have been a "swatting" incident, "which is a false emergency report to law enforcement to garner a response."

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First Report

BILLINGS - The threat of a shooting at Billings West High School forced the school into lockdown Friday morning.

Billings police said on Twitter the threat was made by a caller who "appears to be out of state."

"Multiple Officers were already on scene and everything is OK," police said.

The incident is the latest in a rash of recent school threats that resulted in many students choosing to stay home from West High School on Dec. 7 and the arrest of a Billings Senior High School student.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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