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Updated: More than a dozen schools across the state were targeted with fake threats as law enforcement swarmed

This is an image of snowy street and sidewalk in front of Boulder High School where emergency vehicles are parked along a street in front of the school.
John Herrick
Boulder Reporting Lab
After a shooting threat at Boulder High School this morning students were evacuated from the building and loaded onto buses for transportation to a nearby reunification center.

Updated Feb. 23 at 11:03 a.m.

Numerous Colorado schools lifted lockdown orders within hours after receiving threats Wednesday morning related to shootings and bombings.

Boulder High School went into lockdown after a caller said they were armed with a semiautomatic weapon and prepared to enter the school. Police departments and sheriff's offices responded to similar threats Wednesday at schools in Alamosa, Aspen, Brighton, Cañon City, Durango, Englewood, Estes Park, Gilpin County, Glenwood Springs and Littleton, among others.

A number of the fake call threats, called "swatting" calls, appeared to arrive in alphabetical order by school name. The Colorado Information Analysis Center told KDVR many of the calls came from the same TextNow number.

In Boulder, the non-emergency dispatch center received the threatening call around 8:30 a.m. that suggested an active shooter was on the premises at Boulder High School.

“It is very scary. In the background, you could actually hear shots being fired,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said of the call. “The way this call came in really was authentic to make you believe that we had a real active shooter in the front of the school.”

Herold said the caller’s voice sounded like a male, though nothing about the caller’s identity or motive has been confirmed. The chief said officers do not yet know whether the threats to different Colorado schools Wednesday were part of a coordinated effort, but said the threats appeared to arrive within a close time frame.

“In my wildest imagination, I cannot imagine doing this,” Herold said of the threatening call. “It is very serious.”

Police allegedly responded within minutes of the reported threat and advised the public to avoid the area around the high school and shelter in place.

Boulder High School has a regular later start time on Wednesdays, when the school is scheduled to open at 9:35 a.m. Given the scheduled late start, many students and staff were not yet on school grounds when police received news of the threat.

Randy Barber, chief communications officer for the Boulder Valley School District, said about 200 people were evacuated from the high school in buses. Evacuees were taken to Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado–Boulder campus, where parents were instructed to pick up their children.

The Estes Park Police Department also received an anonymous report of a planned shooting at the town’s high school Wednesday morning, although school was already canceled due to snow. In a tweet, the town referred to the report as a “hoax,” saying that officers immediately searched local schools and found no evidence to substantiate the threat.

In Brighton, police responded to a local high school after receiving a threat from an unidentified person, according to a tweet from the police department. By 10 a.m. Wednesday, Brighton police announced there was “no credible threat” to students or the community.

This isn't the first time—and Colorado isn't the only state—where false threats of a shooting have popped up. Last September, Denver closed all public libraries, and multiple schools across Colorado went into lockdown, after receiving 'hoax' threats. Similar incidents have cropped up in Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota and Florida. Yesterday, similar false threats impacted two Oregon counties.

In Boulder, Barber said the school district immediately instituted a lockdown and sent information out to parents and staff after hearing about the threat. Grief counselors will be on hand to help students work through the aftermath of the incident.

This community has suffered from shooting incidents in the recent past. On Monday, SWAT teams, firefighters and police swarmed a Boulder hotel after gunshots were reported inside. One man has been arrested. In 2021, ten people were killed in a mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers.

“It's the worst fear that most parents, most students have,” Barber said. “We recognize that just even the news coverage of this, let alone being in the school when something like this happens, can be quite traumatic so there will be help, mental support for students.”

By 11 a.m. Wednesday Boulder police lifted the shelter-in-place order, but asked that the public still avoid the area at the time of publication. Police say there are no confirmed injuries.

The Denver branch of the Federal Investigations Bureau said in a statement that there has been nothing to indicate a “specific and credible threat” among the threats issued Wednesday morning, but that the bureau will continue to partner with local law enforcement to gather information.

As KUNC's Senior Editor and Reporter, my job is to find out what’s important to northern Colorado residents and why. I seek to create a deeper sense of urgency and understanding around these issues through in-depth, character driven daily reporting and series work.
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