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Fake active shooter calls on University of Oklahoma campus referred to as "swatting" incident

University of Oklahoma students walk to and from class on the Van Vleet Oval in Norman.
Robby Korth
StateImpact Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma students walk to and from class on the Van Vleet Oval in Norman.

Calls that triggered an active shooter response at the University of Oklahoma Friday night were a hoax.

Initial alerts from the University at 9:24 p.m. warned there was an active shooter situation at Van Vleet Oval, commonly referred to as South Oval. The same message contained the phrase, “Run. Hide. Fight!.”

After about an hour and a half and a thorough search of the area, including Bizzell Memorial Library, OU issued the all clear. There was no shooting, no victims, and no threat to campus.

OU Police Department Chief Nate Tarver said at a press conference, more than 100 law enforcement came to the scene.

On Sunday night, OU President Joseph Harroz, Jr. said it's been confirmed this was a “swatting” incident, where false calls are made to elicit a strong response from police. He also says it’s believed the calls came from outside the country.

OU is not alone in these threats. Similar false calls took place in recent days at Clemson University, Wake Forest University, Boston University and Harvard University.

On Monday morning, Yukon Public Schools cancelled all classes, activities and practices due to a possible threat made toward the high school. It's unclear how that threat was received or where it originated.

What is "swatting"?

In these hoaxes, a false call—or series of false calls—reports a bombing or a shooting. The calls are placed at schools, businesses or with law enforcement. This prompts a "swatting" response, where law enforcement respond in large numbers to the location. Swatting incidents generate fear and panic and can be very dangerous, as officers often enter with force, guns drawn.

Last spring, schools in several states experienced falsely reported bomb calls. Last fall, roughly 200 school shooting hoaxes in at least 28 states followed a similar pattern. In those incidents, the caller used internet-based phone numbers from outside the U.S.

What is "Run. Hide. Fight!"?

Active shooter training commonly provides three tactics to follow should you ever find yourself in that situation.

  1. Run. If you see a path to evacuate safely, take it.
  2. Hide. If there is no good escape route, lock and blockade the door, find a place to hide and stay quiet. 
  3. Fight! This is the last resort when your life is in immediate danger. Be aggressive, throw things, yell—do anything to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter. Don't fight fair.
Logan Layden is a reporter and managing editor for StateImpact Oklahoma.
Deborah is local host/reporter for NPR’s All Things Considered afternoon news program on KGOU, joining the station in March 2023.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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