Police not pressing charges for false report of shooter at PHS
Video that set response into motion was of drill team student
No one will be facing charges in connection to the report of an armed individual at Prescott High School on Friday, Sept. 14.
Shortly after 5 p.m. that evening, the Prescott Police Department (PPD) received word that a young man dressed in camouflage clothing and carrying a rifle was at Prescott High School, according to PPD spokesperson Dave Fuller. The report included a photo of the person.
A full-fledged active shooter response was quickly deployed to investigate the matter. Assisting were multiple agencies, including the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the Chino Valley Police Department and the Yavapai-Prescott Tribal Police. At least 15 law enforcement vehicles arrived on scene.
Once briefed, officers armed with semi-automatic rifles began searching the high school campus for any potential threat.
“By the time I got here, they had already walked the outside campus,” said PHS’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Moore, who was called to the school to assist police at about 5:45 p.m. To Moore’s knowledge, there were also no students on campus when he arrived, only custodial staff.
More than two hours passed before officers determined the school to be safe and clear.
“Officers were able to speak with the reporting party and many others in the area and learned that no threat ever existed,” Fuller said.
It turns out, the panic originated from a parent who viewed a short video of a Prescott High School student walking on the high school’s campus carrying what the parent believed to be a rifle in a bag, said PHS principle Mark Goligoski.
It was discovered later during the investigation that the student in the video was actually a part of the school’s flag line drill team and was carrying a fake, white rifle in the bag rather than anything that could do harm, Goligoski said. The student was also not wearing camouflage clothing in the video, he said.
Additionally, the video had been taken that morning and was then sent via a social media platform to a select number of students in the afternoon after school was recessed.
Unknowing of these facts, police did not hesitate to take action when they received the initial report from the parent.
“Due to the nature of the incident, we must respond in this manner until it is deemed not a threat,” Fuller said. “Once we are absolutely sure that there is no threat to our community, then we can reduce that response.”
Despite drawing on police resources and alarming the public, Fuller said neither the reporting party, the student in the photo, nor the student who shared the photo on social media would face any charges.
“At this point in time, as a result of our investigation, we could not determine that any criminal activity took place,” Fuller said. “Especially when we have to consider intent and the other circumstances surrounding this event.”
The school has also decided not to take any formal disciplinary action against either of the students.
“There’s no discipline, because there was no intent in there at all,” Goligoski said.
For Joe Howard, superintendent for the Prescott Unified School District, the silver lining regarding this incident was to see how quickly police responded to the report.
“Nobody blew this off,” Howard said. “Everyone was on the money with how to respond to this.”
Reason being, Fuller said, every second counts when it comes to legitimate active shooter situations.
“We have all seen the devastation that these events can cause,” Fuller said.