FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Hours after receiving phone calls reporting pipe bombs at some school buildings and a machine gun at another, Fairfield police Friday were actively investigating the credibility of those reports.
The threats came during what police believe was a "swatting" incident, when callers report false information of possible violent activity or threats in order to see a police tactical response.
“As we stand right now, we are looking at this as possibly not credible,” Lt. James Perez said shortly before 2 p.m. Friday. “Although, we can’t be absolutely certain until we start clearing all the schools.”
The early dismissal of 10,000 students from all of Fairfield’s public schools will allow officials the opportunity to fully and properly sweep the buildings, Perez said.
“That will make the job a lot easier for law enforcement a lot easier,” he said.
Perez said police do not know exactly who called the reports in to authorities. But they are beginning to get more information.
“We are getting individuals that starting to say they perhaps they were involved in the call(s), (but) they’re not taking full responsibility,” Perez said Friday afternoon.
The incident, which caused alarm across Fairfield and beyond, began when officers were called to what turned out to be a fictitious address on Black Rock Turnpike where an individual said he had killed a girlfriend and was holding hostages, Perez said.
Police then received more calls — of a bomb at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, pipe bombs planted at Fairfield Warde High School, and a man with an M16 assault rifle headed to Holland Hill Elementary School, according to police.
The lockdowns were put in place at every school as a precaution, and police stressed that the town was safe.
"All of our schools, both private and public, are safe and secure. And all the students, staff and personnel are safe," Police Chief Gary MacNamara said at a press conference.
Local, state and federal law enforcement organizations are all taking part in investigating the incident, he said.
It was proving to be a very long day for police in Fairfield. The first calls came in about 9 a.m., sending officers out to investigate on Black Rock Turnpike. When the threats came in to 911 and the schools, officers began to fan out to every school building in town.
Officers remained on duty through dismissal and beyond at those schools, with help from other department including Westport, Trumbull, Newtown, Seymour, Easton and Bridgeport.
Perez said it was the first time an incident of this size had happened in town.
"We have never had an incident in the schools of this magnitude," he said. It was a "monumental" task to clear and secure the 17 school buildings.
All 10,000 students in Fairfield were dismissed early after spending the morning in lockdown as a precaution.
School Superintendent David Title said the decision was made to hold an early dismissal because of the desire for families to be reunited after the scare.
Title said the school district had been in constant contact with police after the threats were issued.
"Once we realized the day would be serious disrupted -- we decided to dismiss all of our schools," he said.
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