Oak Harbor High School students, evacuated to Veteran Stadium Thursday due to a bomb threat, bottleneck as they wait to be picked up by their parents or guardians. Photo by Elaine Reyes Torres.

OHHS scare Thursday may be linked to other bomb threats

Oak Harbor High School was one of a number of schools across the nation hit with hoax bomb threats Thursday, according to the Oak Harbor Police Department.

An online group called the “Goon Squad” claimed responsibility for making the calls, according to Mike Bailey, acting police captain.

Detectives are investigating whether a local student may have contacted the group through Twitter or other social media and requested a bomb threat be delivered to Oak Harbor High School.

Anyone with information about who may be involved is asked to contact Detective Manny Silveira at 360-279-4616.

At about 11 a.m., the high school received a call from a subject claiming there were explosives at the school. The caller also said he was going to arrive at the school within a certain period of time, armed with firearms, the police reported.

The caller had an accent.

The threat was very similar to one made at a Los Angeles school on Thursday, the police said. Multiple schools in Brooklyn, New York also reported bomb threats.

Oak Harbor school district officials decided to evacuate the students to a reunification site. They were bused across town to the old Memorial Stadium, according to Conor Laffey, school district communications officer. Other schools in the district were put in “lockout.” Doors were locked, but school proceeded as normal.

A lockout is a less restrictive measure than a lockdown, Laffey explained.

Notification was also sent out via email and text to residents in the area. Access to some homes was restricted because roads near the high school were blocked off.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island security and explosive ordnance disposal, the Washington State Patrol and the Bellingham Police Department brought bomb-sniffing dogs to the school to help with the search.

Bailey said at least eight dogs searched the school.

“We had a very good response from city, county, state and federal agencies,” he said.

Nothing suspicious was found in the school. Students were allowed to return to the school to get their cars and belongings at around 5:30 p.m. Bailey said dealing with such a hoax is time consuming.

“It used up a lot of resources and caused panic unnecessarily,” he said.

Bailey said he believes the bomb-hoax phenomenon is related to swatting, which is a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.

He said the person who made the calls likely used a device or software to disguise his voice.

A year ago, a group calling itself the “Evacuation Squad” and using the Twitter handle @SwatTheWorld claimed to be behind hundreds of bomb hoax calls made around the world.

That group posted a note on the anonymous website Pastebin that it was accepting Bitcoin payments to call in bomb threats to schools and other entities, according to news reports.

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