Florida college campuses hit with multiple ‘swatting’ calls

A report of an active shooter at USF Sarasota-Manatee was found to be a hoax.
Law enforcement responded to false active shooter calls at college campuses across Florida on Tuesday.
Law enforcement responded to false active shooter calls at college campuses across Florida on Tuesday. [ Times ]
Published May 2|Updated May 2

Across the state on Tuesday, law enforcement agencies responded to false reports of active shooters, or ‘swatting’ calls, at many college and university campuses.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of a shooting at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus Tuesday afternoon. School officials sent an emergency notification to everyone on the campus at 11:38 a.m. But deputies later “cleared campus and determined no shooting took place and no one was injured,” a tweet from the sheriff’s office said.

“This appears to be part of a state-wide swatting hoax at Florida colleges,” the tweet said.

In a message to the university community, USF President Rhea Law said classes and exams were canceled on the Sarasota-Manatee campus for the rest of the day. Normal schedules remained for the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses.

“The health, safety and well-being of the university community is our highest priority,” she wrote. “Students should work with their professors to make up final exams as soon as possible.”

Law also reminded students and staff of resources, including counseling services, available to them if they were impacted by Tuesday’s events. Her message advised students needing immediate support to contact 941-359-4366 to speak with a crisis counselor, or log onto and select TalkNow services.

For faculty and staff, the Employee Assistance Program is available, she said.

The Tampa Police Department received a call around 10:30 a.m. reporting an active shooter at the Arizona College of Nursing campus in Tampa, said department spokesperson Crystal Clark. Responding officers determined there was no threat. The department asked anyone with information related to the hoax to call 813-231-6130.

Around 10:50 a.m., St. Petersburg Police received a call stating there was an active shooter at Galen College of Nursing that was deemed unfounded.

The Miami Herald reported that false calls also were received in South Florida, including one that evacuated some campus buildings at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County. A false call also came into an FIU-FAU campus in downtown Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Atlantic in West Palm Beach.

The University of Florida, the state’s flagship school, had not received any threatening calls as of early afternoon Tuesday but is monitoring the situation in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, said UF Police Department Captain Latrell Simmons.

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Officials at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and the University of Tampa said they had not received any emergency hoax calls on Tuesday but were aware of the statewide problem.

Divya Kumar and Times staff writer Ian Hodges cover higher education for the Tampa Times, in partnership with Open Campus. Times staff writers Natalie Weber and Tony Marrero also contributed to this report.

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