Home / Investigation underway into origin of South Fort Myers High School threat

Investigation underway into origin of South Fort Myers High School threat

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Children are afraid to go to school, and parents are just as scared to send their kids back after an active shooter threat at South Fort Myers High School on Friday.

It turned out to be a hoax shortly after LCSO got there, but even though the call was fake, the aftermath-and the fear is real.

The National School Safety and Security Services president said threats like Friday’s typically come from someone connected to the school. It could be a student or a former student, most likely a teenager.

There are times when threats come from far away, another state, or even another country, but regardless of the origin, the swatting call shook up everyone at the school.

After events like Columbine, Parkland, and Uvalde, when parents, students, and teachers hear of a threat against a school, they fear the worst.

MORE: Lee County schools’ head of security on keeping students safe after threats

“I don’t understand what’s happening in the world today. And what happens when it’s real? You know, are you going to believe it that time or just casually take it?” asked Susan Stark, a Southwest Florida grandmother.

Stark and Maritza Laura were two of hundreds of people who rushed to South Fort Myers High School on Friday because their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews were inside.

“My heart’s like bumping,” said Laura, aunt of a South Fort Myers High School student.

The initial call was for an active shooter, claiming 20 students were hurt.

Armed Lee County deputies rush into South Fort Myers High School after a swatting incident Friday, September 16, 2022. Credit: WINK News

Two sheriff’s deputies rushed into the school with guns drawn while parents prayed
and cried outside.

Then finally, they got the all-clear; it was a prank.

“The hoax was national, a result of swatting, which is an action of making a prank call in order to drive and garner a large number of law enforcement to a specific location,” said Dr. Christopher Bernier, the superintendent for the School district of Lee County.

National School Safety and Security Services President Ken Trump said local, state, and federal law enforcement would work to find those responsible.

“Typically, what threat makers fail to realize is that they may feel that they’re anonymous, but the digital footprints will be tracked. And they’re going to get hit with a ton of bricks, suspension, expulsion if they’re a student, and criminal prosecution, that’s going to stick with them for a very long time,” said Trump.

Belen Alaniz is a South Fort Myers High School parent. She said she doesn’t know what to do because her kids need to go to school, but they’re scared.

She’s afraid for them, and she said with good reason. Alaniz raced to the school on Friday and waited anxiously along with hundreds of other parents to reunite with their kids.

“My blood rushed to my feet. Just freaking out. So right now, my heart’s pounding. No one thought this could be happening. You know, even if it’s a prank,” said Alaniz.

On Monday, Superintendent Bernier visited South Fort Myers High School to meet with students, staff members and school resource officers. Then the people in charge of school safety and security met to talk about what happened and the response.

“We’re all panicking. But trying to stay calm because we weren’t sure if it was real or not,” said Pricilla Zaragoza, a South Fort Myers High School student.

Alaniz reunited with her daughter Pricilla minutes after the sheriff’s office lifted the lockdown, but days later, the family can’t forget their fear.

“My daughter just going to school (Tuesday). She wanted me to anoint her, we’re very strong in our faith. And I did that for her. We always go to church, and they prayed for all the kids,” said Alaniz.

Now that the threat is gone, the search is on for who is responsible.

The FBI says it is working with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to find the person responsible.