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Dayton, Pomeroy schools 'swatted'

By the Dayton Chronicle and East Washingtonian

DAYTON & POMEROY–Law enforcement from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Garfield County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol responded Wednesday morning, May 10, to reports of firearm threats to Pomeroy Schools and Dayton Schools, but the incident was a one of at least nine hoaxes that morning, prank phone calls termed "swatting" by those so engaged, to lead police to a location where a horrific shooting incident is purported about to be perpetrated.

Similar threats were also called in to Curlew, Wash., Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley, Pullman, Walla Walla, Clarkston, Hanford and Richland, according to media reports.

At Columbia County Dispatch, the first call was received at 10:22 a.m., the caller threatening to "kill everyone", to "shoot as many cops as possible", and "kill everyone he sees." The dispatcher could hear gun shots in the background before the caller disconnected. The caller had a deep voice.

Garfield County Sheriff's Office Dispatch received a phone call on a non-emergency line from a caller ID number referencing the Flint, Michigan area. The male caller spoke with an odd accent so softly that he was difficult to understand, Garfield County Sheriff Drew Hyer reported. The dispatcher was able to determine that the caller was stating that he was outside Pomeroy High School and he was going to walk inside and shoot everyone he saw. The dispatcher began to engage the caller by asking questions when the sounds of semi-automatic gunfire could be heard on the other end of the line. The caller then disconnected.

Deputies in Pomeroy responded to the campus in less than two minutes, with county EMS and fire units staged nearby. A room-to-room search ensued by deputies, looking for a shooter, but found nothing amiss in either school. While deputies were actively rendering the schools safe, Dispatch began to receive information of similar active shooter calls at high schools across eastern Washington.

"The students did exactly what we needed them to do so that we could stop the threat," said Sheriff Hyer. "They listened to their teachers, they helped each other and they moved fast."

Within six minutes, Dayton's campus was initiating lockdown as four Columbia County deputies and Sheriff Joe Helm responded within three minutes, clearing the middle school withing 11 minutes of the call. Deputies performed an initial exterior search and then were stationed at points around campus while other officers searched the Elementary, Middle and High schools, gym and shop/bus garages room-by-room.

"Dispatch did a good job," Sheriff Helm stated. "Our response times were quick. And the teachers did an excellent job in the lockdown process."

"The sheriff took it seriously," said Supt. Rich Stewart. "Their response time was very positive, very quick."

"We want to assure our families that our first priority is the safety of our students and staff," said Pomeroy School District Superintendent Rachel Gwinn. "In the event of any reported threat at our schools, emergency services will respond and our schools will follow the established safety procedures while determining the credibility of the threat."

Dayton Schools were in lockdown for about an hour and forty minutes, the lockdown being lifted at around 12 noon, according to dispatch records.

Both school superintendents said the district's parent-communication systems worked. Families were notified by the school via text, email, phone or social media.

Both Hyer and Helm said law enforcement is investigating the source of the prank calls.

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