A sheriff’s spokesman recalled Tuesday’s active shooter hoax at the Hollister School District board meeting and said he believed the person made three separate phone calls making threats.
San Benito County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor said authorities are seeking out information on the male suspect, who made those calls to make it appear as though he was physically at the district office.
“It appears at this point, the phone number that came up appears to be like a spoof number to make it appear it came from on site,” Taylor said. “We verified it did not come from on site at the district.”
Well into the 6 p.m. regular meeting of the district board, Taylor said the initial call came in at about 7:40 p.m. when an “out of breath” male relayed that he was “arming himself with a shotgun to go shoot people at the school district,” Taylor said. Then there was a subsequent call minutes later with the person saying he had shot someone, which didn’t end up being true. About an hour after that, the third and final call came in, with the suspect saying he was getting impatient and would start shooting.
“We were already on scene and had the scene secure,” Taylor said of the third call.
Taylor pointed out after the first call came in, Hollister police offered to help, which the sheriff’s office accepted, while the fire department already had been staging in the area.
One team of officers and deputies handled the lockdown, while another team conducted a search of the inside and outside of the buildings.
There were between 50 and 80 people in total at the meeting, Taylor estimated.
“Everyone got back together toward the end and escorted everyone to their cars,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the ordeal ended around 10 p.m.
“We handled it with an abundance of caution,” Taylor said. “We’re very thankful for our partnership with the Hollister Police Department that they’d be willing to help us out.”
That sense of collaboration continued Wednesday when top officials for the two law enforcement agencies met with Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa and County Superintendent Krystal Lomanto.
“The message we want to send loud and clear to the Hollister community is that we’re working hand in hand with law enforcement to debrief what took place last night,” Ochoa said Wednesday.
Ochoa said a plan is under way to review school and district office safety measures. That will go before the Hollister district board Feb. 26, he said.
Ochoa said in his 20 years in education, he has experienced multiple incidents with shooter or bomb threats, but usually they happened at school sites and not a district office.
Ochoa said after the first call came in Tuesday night, law enforcement instructed school officials to stop the meeting and ensure everybody remain in that physical location.
Soon after, officials locked doors and initiated a “shelter in place” scenario.
Going forward, investigators are trying to pinpoint the location of the call but are open to tips as well.
“If anybody in the community knows anybody that they think has some type of agenda or reason to make these types of threats to the board, we would appreciate them coming to the sheriff’s department,” Taylor said.