Threatening calls send Kingston, Ont., schools into lockdown

For the second day in a row, anonymous threats made against schools in Kingston, Ont., have forced police to respond and the schools to tighten security.

Multiple calls involving several schools made over 2 days, police say

Kingston Police have been dealing with multiple anonymous threats against schools in the area on Wednesday and Thursday. (Paul Jay/CBC)

For the second day in a row, anonymous threats made against schools in Kingston, Ont., have forced police to respond and the schools to tighten security.

It started Wednesday morning, when someone called the principal's office at Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School at about 9:30 a.m.

"An unknown male had called the principal saying that he was outside the school, and he had multiple pipe bombs and an assault rifle, and he was going to come in through a side door within five to 10 minutes," Kingston Police Staff Sgt. Brian Pete told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning on Thursday. 

The school went into lockdown, administrators called 911, and Kingston Police patrol officers and the tactical unit responded. Searches turned up nothing, said Pete, who served as incident commander Wednesday.

'A very similar call'

"As we were finishing up secondary searches at Regiopolis and not finding a legitimate threat ... at 11:10 a.m. we received a very similar call to a high school on the other side of town, Bayridge Secondary," Pete said.

Some of the officers stayed at Regiopolis while the tactical unit and others moved to Bayridge to start searching.

Once again, nothing was found.

And at 1:09 p.m., a third call from someone "threatening to do harm and kill with similar weapons" was made against Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School. Again, nothing was found.

Other schools enacted security protocols on Wednesday as a precaution. Police said the schools went first into lockdown, then into "hold and secure" mode as the threats were deemed to be fake.

Lone caller, police believe

On Thursday morning the threatening calls started again, this time at Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute and École secondaire catholique Marie-Rivier. Both schools are in lockdown.

A school in Elgin, Ont., north of Kingston, also received a threat on Thursday.

Asked what it's like for police to respond to calls like this only to find out they're hoaxes, Pete said it's "difficult," and that it was a topic of discussion among senior ranks.

"The bottom line for us is we will respond to all of them in the same fashion, treating them as though they are real threats to our students or whoever ... but it is tough," he said.

"The concerning thing is that it takes away from regular 911 response. Yesterday, I don't believe that we had any major incidents that officers had to be rerouted from, but it's certainly a possibility, and it's very taxing on all the emergency services, including fire and ambulance."

So far, investigators believe the calls are being made by one person. Someone on Twitter has been claiming responsibility for the calls, and Kingston Police are asking people not to interact with that person.

CBC Radio's Ontario Morning