• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

  • Lindsay Shachnow (COM’25)

    Lindsay Shachnow (COM’25)

    Lindsay Shachnow (COM’25) Profile

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There are 7 comments on Making Sense of “Swatting” Hoax That Hit BU Sunday Night

  1. I’m so sorry for the BU students who had to go through this.

    I wrote this post a few weeks ago after a hoax at my daughter’s high school to highlight the impacts of trauma and gun violence.

    My daughter’s school was recently one of dozens of Massachusetts schools that went into lockdown due to a swatting hoax. In every way, I know we were lucky that it was a false alarm. Too many families have endured actual school shootings, and too many people in our country have lost loved ones and live in fear daily due to gun violence in their neighborhoods and towns. I wrote this yesterday, before today’s school shooting in Nashville. I’ll spare going into the statistics other than to point you to the Gun Violence Archive where you can see the data broken down pretty much any way you want to see it.

    What we went through on February 14th, just one day after the Michigan State mass shooting, pales in comparison to actual school shootings, but it represents one of the numerous impacts that gun violence is having on our country. Hoaxes are proliferating because mass shootings are – it is terror on top of terror. I share this personal story, with my daughter’s permission, to highlight one of the many effects of gun violence in this country that might otherwise fall under the radar – and that don’t get captured in death and injury numbers.

    Unaware that other schools had recently received similar hoax calls, the students and faculty took the lockdown that was announced as a serious threat. Students’ level of fear seemed to depend largely on where they were when the lockdown was announced. My daughter was unlucky in that she was in between classes and was first led to a classroom with glass walls, then redirected into a safer room with no windows, where students were told they could escape out back exits if they needed to.

    Dozens of emergency vehicles arrived quickly from several surrounding towns and a helicopter circled overhead. Armed police came through campus, entering classrooms, searching for the “gunman.” Luckily no one was physically hurt in the chaos of determining where a shooter might be.

    A policeman came to the room my daughter was in, pounded on the door and announced his presence. When my daughter and some other students in the room heard the banging and an incomprehensibly muffled but loud voice, it was easy to assume it was the gunman. They ran out the back exits as they had been advised to do, and were then locked out of the building. They found a place to hide outside and called 911. A policeman came to help and led them into another classroom that had been deemed safe.

    The period of time from when my daughter was in the glass-walled classroom to the time I received a text from her saying “all clear” was one full hour- one of the longest hours of her life, and mine. I was receiving texts from her for the whole hour, and if I could share them, you would relate to the thoughts and feelings that would be going through any parent’s mind. When it was all over, I picked her up from school, and the first thing she said was “I thought I was going to die today.” Her body shook for the entire 30 minute drive home.

    We are extremely lucky that it was a hoax, and that we are not among the thousands of parents whose children have experienced gun violence firsthand. But I am angry.

    I am sharing this story not to elicit sympathy, or to point blame at how the situation was handled by the police or the administrators. I think each person did their best to keep our children safe and I am grateful for that. I imagine that everyone involved was able to learn from the experience about how to be better prepared in the future.

    BUT WHAT ARE WE DOING IN THIS COUNTRY that this is what we are preparing our children for and making them go through? The day after the hoax call, I heard a number of students talking about people they know who have been in an actual school shooting. I was taken aback by how normalized school shootings have become. We all knew when we, as a nation, didn’t make sweeping gun reform laws after Sandy Hook that our country was in a dark place. I think many of us, myself included, have been feeling angry and frustrated, but are lost about what to do because the problem seems insurmountable. But it’s not. I share this story to keep us thinking about it and talking about it and doing what we can.

    I’m asking that you get involved or renew your commitment in the fight for gun control in our country. Speak up, volunteer, donate. Share your experience in the comments below or in your own post. Whatever you have the time or the bandwidth to do- please help.

    To donate: https://nonprofitpoint.com/best-gun-control-charities/

    To learn more: https://www.bu.edu/sph/practice/activist-lab/take-a-stand/gun-violence/

    Statistics: https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

  2. I realize it was Easter Sunday, but come on BU, you could have turned a statement around pretty quickly….to not address it at all is just wrong wrong wrong. This was scary for the students. Please take a look at what the students are saying in this article. I took the liberty of pulling some quotations for your convenience…

    “”He says while he felt the police took “a great initiative in controlling the situation,” it is “kind of concerning” that the University hasn’t released a statement since.

    Sean Waddington (CAS’25), president of BU College Democrats, says he also felt “frustrated” after receiving the second alert, which asked that people stop calling the BUPD for updates on the active shooter situation and wait for the next alert. He says it was then that he started to write a statement in response.”

    That second message telling people to NOT call BUPD is not on the students or the community that is on BU’s response to the situation. Disgusting. Why is a 300 word statement too much to ask? Because it’s Easter Sunday night? You’ve been entrusted to keep a watchful eye on students, faculty, and staff no matter the day. What are you doing?

    Check reddit to see read the voices of the students who are paying top dollar for their education.

  3. I am a current student at BU. The first text message alerting us of a potential active shooter was sent at 8:00pm. The second alert, asking us to NOT call BU Police for updates, was sent at 8:25pm. In those intervening 25 minutes, I:

    – texted 40 people, including my singing group and visual arts friends, some of whom were in CFA and told to shelter in place. We were sharing tips on how to barricade doors, which floors were safe, what people had heard over the BU reddit or social media. And we had a set of questions to ask. We knew what to say. Because this is routine, now.

    – received texts from about 10 other people asking if I was ok, because I’m a CFA student and they didn’t know if I was there or not.

    – tuned into BUPD radio and tried to figure out what they were saying and what the alerts meant.

    – had a panic attack. Because it’s never routine enough not to be terrifying, thinking about whether your friends are going to die.

    Then, to be told not to contact BU for updates when none were being provided… I understand that calling clogs up the line and BU was trying to use all resources to deal with the biggest issue: the potential shooter. I understand that no one really knew what was going on. But this fits into a much larger pattern of BU’s lack of appropriate mental health resources and support. If there’s not enough bandwidth to reassure students who are genuinely wondering if they or their classmates are going to die, maybe some priorities need to shift. I don’t have the energy to blame. Can we please problem-solve?

    1. Jenna. Thank you for your comment and we hear you. We did add this morning to this paragraph several important links that speak to your concerns, which include phone numbers and offices for mental health help and resources:

      Many students found it difficult to calm down after the all clear was issued, and took to social media to express themselves. “I feel dumb for being shaken up,” user anon_2454 posted to the BU subreddit late Sunday. “Nothing bad actually happened…so why can I not stop shaking? My heart is racing.” Numerous commenters said they felt the same way and that it was a normal response. Resources for coping are offered by Student Health Services and the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office.

  4. Doubtful that swatting is happening solely to cause mass panic. More likely, it’s so that after however many false calls, people won’t take it as seriously when it is real.

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