Hoax threat was made from phone inside middle school, police say

Officer's gun discharged during Jacksonville police's response

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A false threat at Jefferson David Middle School was made from a phone inside the Westside school, according to a police report. 

News4Jax also learned Friday that an officer whose weapon accidentally discharged outside the school is still on the job while the incident is investigated.

Sky 4 video showed dozens of police officers and a couple of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department units swarming the school Thursday afternoon. Fortunately, no one was injured. Reports of a shooting that led police there were determined to be false, but still left many feeling uneasy. 

Martin Lopez, with Red Team Training, is trained and certified in active shooter preparedness. He gave his perspective on yesterday’s response.

"They have trained and trained and trained for this," Lopez said. "They know if you’re first on scene what your procedures are. Everyone knows exactly what their role is."

About 3:50 p.m. Thursday, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, 911 dispatch received two calls falsely reporting there had been a shooting at the school. An incident report shows the calls came from within the school. The report states, "the threat was initiated from one of the phones inside of the school." The exact location of that phone is unclear. News4Jax has requested audio of the calls.

Duval County Public Schools told News4Jax that the false threat came into JSO and the school police department is investigating who is responsible.

"In terms of school discipline, if it is determined that the false report was made by students, they could face consequences up to and including expulsion," reads an email to News4Jax from a school district spokesperson. 

Schools are not in session Friday and Monday, but the school district said appropriate safety measures will be in place at the school Tuesday when students return.

The school district said it notified parents of the incident at 5:58 p.m. Thursday, about two hours after police responded to Jefferson Davis Middle. The district said it got the alert out as soon as possible, ensuring that facts were straight first so no further panic or further disruption was caused.

The district credited students and staff with staying calm, which Lopez said is crucial.

"In these kinds of situations, your adrenaline is already pumping," he said. "People are scared, so that calm you’re talking about is absolutely crucial -- being able to keep their composure and everything so they can start acting appropriately and not just start making knee-jerk reactions on decisions just because they’re scared."

The district sent the following message to parents and students about false threats:

"As demonstrated yesterday, false threats may not be real, but the results to the school community are highly disruptive. Threats also result in very serious and life-altering consequences for the perpetrator including school discipline and possible criminal charges. In all our communications to parents about these events, we ask parents to please talk with their children and emphasize the serious consequences that can result."

As for the officer’s gun accidentally firing into the sidewalk outside of the school, JSO said that officer will continue working during the investigation. The Sheriff's Office is conducting an administrative investigation into the unintentional discharge.

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