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In-Depth: Local communities pay the price for false threats

In-Depth: Local communities pay the price for false threats
Posted at 10:30 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 22:30:42-05

VERMILION, Ohio — False phoned-in threats issued to two local school districts have local police searching for suspects and cities looking to recoup lost costs and tax dollars for police emergency response.

Police are investigating a call to Bay High School on Jan. 29. Chief Kathy Leasure with Bay Village Police Department said a male’s voice reported an individual was in the high school bathroom with guns and knives, threatening to shoot-up the school.

Then on Feb. 1, Chief Christopher Hartung with the Vermilion Police Department reported a male called and said there was a bomb inside Sailorway Middle School, and they had five minutes to evacuate.

Fortunately, no credible threats were found in either case. Both Hartung and Leasure said they have leads in their cases and said the prank callers responsible will face serious charges when caught.

“Inducting panic varies and comes in various levels, but it becomes a second-degree felony because it’s directed toward a school," Hartung said.

“They could be from another state and they just think it’s funny to call in random bomb threats, that certainly has happened, well then you have federal charges.”

"You’re putting some people into a panic who are worried about their children.”

“When you think you’re funny and you think you’re having a joke and a ha, ha, ha, we're really are going to go that extra step to do everything we can to identify who this person is.”

Bay Village police called in mutual aid from dozens of officers from Rocky River, Lakewood, Westlake, North Olmsted, Fairview Park, and Avon Lake.

Chief Hartung Vermilion police used a large portion of its emergency personnel for the entire day, amounting to nine police officers, 10 firefighters, and an EMS crew to check the school and help some 500 students reunite with their parents.

Phil Pempin, Superintendent with the Vermilion Local School District, told News 5 he would hope the prank callers would be held responsible to recoup thousands in lost resources and tax dollars.

“It's definitely a serious thing that caused great disruption to our school day," Pempin said

“It creates chaos, they need to pay this back. This was money that was taken from our community, and that’s money and resources that are needed in a small town.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a small town or large town, those are resources that can go toward things that are really needed.”