As state and local police continue to investigate a series of hoax school shooting calls made on Wednesday, prompting a large police response in multiple Utah cities, officials say all the calls were made by the same male who had a "foreign accent."
Police from Box Elder to Utah County, and in areas such as Grand and Garfield counties, responded to 13 calls between 9:30 a.m. and noon on Wednesday claiming that an active shooter was in a school.
On Thursday, the Utah Department of Public Safety said all the calls were made by someone with a foreign accent, though spokeswoman Hillary Koellner said she did not know what nationality the accent resembled.
Each call was similar but varied just a little, she said, meaning investigators are looking at the likelihood that each call was live and not a pre-recorded message. In all 13 cases, a male called the general police dispatch numbers of an area — not 911 — and claimed he was hiding inside the school with others who were wounded from being shot by a white male, Koellner said.
"That caller reported that there were shots fired and several students were down and injured by gunfire," added Ogden Police Capt. Tim Scott.
When asked whether the calls identified all 13 schools by name or if general words like "high school" were used, Koellner said in one call, the man "had some detail" about the high school where he claimed there was a shooting. However, investigators aren't sure if the caller actually knew about that high school or if it was a coincidence. Some local investigators believe the calls were made from outside of Utah since the caller was not aware that West High School is on spring break this week.
The same phone number was used for all 13 incidents, which was tracked to an IP address, meaning that a digital number was used versus a regular phone line, Koellner said. Because of that, she said the calls may not have necessarily originated from a foreign country.
Other states also reported similar school shooter hoax callers. Koellner said in one state, Rhode Island, the caller gave descriptions that were very similar to the types of calls made in Utah. According to media reports, several schools in Rhode Island received hoax school shooting calls on Monday. Massachusetts received hoax calls on Tuesday.
Although the calls in Utah were determined to be hoaxes, schools still initiated lockdown protocols as heavily armed officers raced to the schools. Hoax calls were received for Ogden High School, West High School, Provo High School, Spanish Fork High School, Box Elder High School, Crimson Cliffs High School in Washington, as well as schools in Grand, Sevier and Garfield counties.
The threats come three days after three children and three adults were killed at a Christian elementary school in Nashville.
Koellner said finding out who made the hoax calls is currently the department's "No. 1 priority."