Saturday, February 17, 2018
Public safety

Police: 7-year-old made hoax call about Belleair Elementary shooter

CLEARWATER — The hoax call to 911 about shots fired at Belleair Elementary School on Tuesday, which spawned a massive police response and panic among parents, was made, police said today, by a first-grader at the school.

And it wasn't the first hoax call the 7-year-old boy had made: He confessed to nine calls, according to Clearwater police.

On Wednesday, the boy called 911 again to report a dead person in a roadway. Police also responded to that call before determining that it was a hoax, but most of the other calls the child made were "non-descript" and didn't generate a police response, according to Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.

It was unclear how the child obtained a cellphone. Watts said all the hoax calls were made with the same phone.

Clearwater detectives were able to track the calls back to the 7-year-old, whose name is not being released. Watts said the boy made the shooting hoax call from Belleair Elementary.

The Clearwater Police Department has referred charges of misuse of 911 to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which will decide whether to pursue the charges.

The boy was released to a parent, Watts said.

On Tuesday at 2:53 p.m., 911 received a call from a cellphone stating that shots had been fired at Belleair Elementary on Lake­view Road in Clearwater.

The school went into lockdown, school buses loaded with students were held, and heavily armed police surrounded the school.

As a crowd of anxious parents gathered, police conducted a room-by-room search of the school before determining more than an hour later that the call was a hoax and there was no shooter.

Watts said she did not have an estimate of the cost to the department of taking time to respond to the hoaxes.

Peter Jamison can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or [email protected]

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