Palo Alto, CA – An unknown suspect called police dispatch and threatened to “shoot up” Palo Alto High School early this afternoon. Investigators determined the call was a hoax and are actively working to identify the suspect.
On Thursday, March 29, 2018 at about 12:31 p.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received two 9-1-1 calls from a cell phone, with a male caller identifying himself by first and last name and saying he was going to “shoot up” Palo Alto High School in 15 minutes. All available officers and detectives immediately flooded the school, located at 50 Embarcadero Road, as well as the surrounding area. Police also summoned additional officers from the Stanford Department of Public Safety, the Menlo Park Police Department, and the Mountain View Police Department. The school administration enacted a “lockdown” of students to ensure their safety while we investigated the threat.
Police learned that the name provided by the suspect matched that of a current Palo Alto High School student. Officers contacted that student in his “locked-down” classroom and determined that he had completely no involvement in this incident whatsoever. His cell phone number did not match the number from which the threat originated. In order to be thorough, officers conducted a search of that student and his belongings, and did not locate any contraband.
The ensuing investigation revealed that the call was placed from a cell phone belonging to an adult not connected to Palo Alto High School, and that the phone had been either lost or stolen from the Town & Country Shopping Center earlier in the day. After discovering it missing, the phone’s owner had called their cell company to deactivate the phone; for that reason, the phone would not receive incoming calls from police attempting to speak with the suspect, yet the phone still allowed the suspect to place calls to 9-1-1.
Detectives are actively working on this case in an effort to identify and arrest the suspect. Officers have already received a number of tips from students and staff at the school, and are actively following up on them. Police, as we have done since the outset of this incident, are working in close collaboration with school administration officials. Once apprehended, the suspect will face multiple criminal charges, as well as face potential civil liability as a cost recovery measure for the substantial law enforcement response.
We would like to emphasize that hoax threats such as this are not only criminal in nature, but they also create a great deal of stress and anxiety for students, parents, school staff, and the community in general. The law enforcement response to this incident was significant, and took officers away from their other important duties and calls. Anyone found responsible for placing a hoax call like this will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to email@example.com or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through our free mobile app, downloadable at bit.ly/PAPD-AppStore or bit.ly/PAPD-GooglePlay.