Hamilton police investigating 5 shooting threats at 4 schools

Hamilton police are investigating threats at Hillcrest Elementary School, St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School, Westdale Secondary School and Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School. A student was also seen with a pellet gun at Bennetto Elementary School on Wednesday.

Police also responded Wednesday to report of student with pellet gun at Bennetto Elementary School

Hamilton police say officers are investigating five shooting threats at four local schools. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton police are investigating five separate threats at four local schools.

Const. Krista-Lee Ernst said threats written in bathroom stalls were reported to police over the past two days at Hillcrest Elementary School, St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School, Westdale Secondary School and Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School.

"At Westdale, it said school shooting, June 3rd ... and all four were similar in nature," she told CBC Hamilton.

There were two threats found recently at Bishop Tonnos, the second threat being reported Wednesday, Ernst said.

She said all of the threats are being investigated separately and said an increased police presence at the schools was being considered. Police are working with students to identify who's responsible for the graffiti and the threats, she said. 

Ernst said those responsible would be charged with mischief under $5,000.

"The importance of school safety is always at the forefront of our investigations," she said, adding the police service is working with local school boards.

In an email sent to parents and guardians, St. Jean de Brébeuf principal Paul Di Ianni said "Please be assured that the safety and security of our students and staff remains our priority concern and threats of any kind are taken extremely seriously."

The same message was sent to parents and guardians by Bishop Tonnos principal Carmelo Barone. His email also said that "Hamilton Police will continue to be present on school property on Thursday and Friday. Additionally, we will be implementing stricter access to the building and classrooms and controlling movement throughout the building as much as possible while maintaining the instructional day."

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board published a statement saying police consider the threat at Hillcrest "unsubstantiated."

It said police was still investigating the threat at Westdale and said officers would be at the school on Friday.

"We take incidents like these very seriously. We continue to work with our school community to ensure students understand the impact threats have on individuals and the overall school climate," read a letter to families.

Student brought pellet gun to Bennetto Elementary School

Also on Wednesday, a student at Bennetto Elementary School was seen with a pellet gun.

Ernst said the student reportedly walked into the school and "within moments" a staff member took away the BB gun.

Ernst said the student didn't have the ability to understand the severity of the situation.

"No weapon is ever permitted on school property or school transportation," read a message from the school board to families.

"The item was not used. Students were not in danger. Staff addressed the situation immediately and followed safe schools protocols."

Police attended, Ernst confirmed, and no charges were laid.

The investigations in Hamilton come after an 18-year-old open fired inside Robb Elementary School in the Texas town of Uvalde on May 24, killing 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. The mass shooting has renewed discussions around school safety and gun control in both the U.S. and Canada. 

On May 27, Toronto police killed a man after four Toronto schools went into lockdown following reports of a man carrying a rifle nearby. It turned out he had a pellet gun.

On Tuesday, three teenagers were charged after pellet gun shootings at two Toronto schools.

The same day, Halton police charged a 16-year-old for having a replica handgun. The incident sent one school into lockdown and five others into a hold-and-secure.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.


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