The phone message came in at about 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. An unidentified male caller left an anonymous voice message at the Shelton Public Schools central office, claiming a gasoline bomb was located in a vehicle on campus.
“The caller, using a disguised voice, made reference to Shelton High School [SHS], although the description of SHS was only partially accurate,” School Supt. Freeman Burr later explained in a message to parents and staff.
“The caller referred to a vehicle at SHS. A description of the vehicle was provided as well,” Burr said in the voice-mail message.
Because the message involved a specific location on the campus grounds and kind of device, police were able to quickly check out its validity.
Within 10 to 15 minutes, police had conducted a thorough search and determined the threat was a hoax “We were able to investigate, and because the threat was specific, we determined those things were safe,” a police official said of the incident.
Police response was swift
Burr had been called out of a meeting to listen to the voice mail message, and then immediately contacted the Shelton police, who rushed to the scene with fire officials. The caller “sounded like someone disguising their voice,” Burr said.
SHS administrators were immediately aided by the school resource officer (police officer) at the scene as well.
A decision was made not to evacuate the facility because the school was about to dismiss, checking the location of the specific threat took only a few minutes, and students and staff would have been asked to stay inside the building anyway because of the location of the threat.
“We would have maintained shelter in place much longer if it appeared more valid,” Burr said.
Students began leaving the school grounds on buses at 2:15 p.m., the regular dismissal time, with police and fire officials monitoring the situation.
‘Details didn’t fit’
Burr said there are other reasons why the threat appeared to be fake besides the caller apparently trying to disguise his voice. “Some of the details didn’t fit,” he said.
He said it was decided not to send out an immediate message to parents because the validity of the threat was checked out so quickly and there was limited information to disseminate before the situation was resolved.
“We didn’t think the threat was valid, but we did have to investigate,” he said. “Then we quickly knew it was not valid.”
The superintendent said “crank threats” involving the schools are received from time to time.