TPD discusses response to Hayden swatting incident

Around 70 first responders arrived on the scene
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:16 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Parents sighed in relief once they heard reports of an active shooter at Hayden High were nothing more than a hoax. Ashley Charest is a parent of a student at Hayden Catholic High School.

“I would say that it was probably the worst 15 minutes of my life,” said Charest.

Authorities say it was a swatting call. That’s when someone makes a fake 911 call in an attempt to bring a large number of armed law enforcement to an area. Hayden School president Shelly Buhler says that although the threat was false, everyone did as they were trained.

“From a school response, we went into a lockdown,” said Buhler. “Our staff and students performed as they should. Of course, very anxious and concerned about the call that came in.”

Topeka Police Chief Bryan Wheeles says swatting is more than just a nuisance to law enforcement.

“We have no sense of humor about this whatsoever,” said Wheeles. “I mean this puts everybody in the community at risk so if you live in the community and you care about anyone in the community you need to make sure you are providing all the information to the authorities about these kinds of incidents because for that few moments in time, everyone in the community was more at risk because we had all of our resources in one location.”

The false alarm did however provide authorities with an opportunity to test their response.

“You always like to see how you would perform in the real world without real world consequences,” said Wheeles. “It did allow us to evaluate our performance across a multi-agency scenario so that was a good thing so we are very pleased with how it went.”

Wheeles says although callers might think swatting is a prank the call can become dangerous.

“This local piece is part of an ongoing federal investigation,” said Wheeles, “and these things are taken very very seriously even when they are hoaxes and there are consequences for those people who are involved in it.”