Phoned-in gunman, bomb threat prompting shelter in place at 2 Palo Alto schools were hoaxes: police

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Police in Palo Alto say that callers phoned in reports of a person with a rifle walking towards a high school and made a bomb threat Monday, which prompted a campus lockdown and investigation. The calls turned out to be hoaxes, police said.

One call came into police dispatch reporting a possible gunman walking toward Gunn High School, while a separate call making a bomb threat was made at the same time.

Investigators later determined that the calls were hoaxes and are "actively" working to identify the suspects, Palo Alto police said.

Police provided more details in a release sent out Monday evening.

At about 1:51 p.m., dispatch received a call from a male who stated he had just seen a teen boy walking towards Gunn High School at 780 Arastradero Road with a rifle strapped to his back and carrying two pipe bombs, police said. A second male caller stated he had seen a man in his 20s wearing body armor walking towards the school while carrying a rifle.

"Both callers provided information that led police believe it was possible the calls were hoaxes, but officers responded to the school immediately and treated the incident from the outset as though the calls were legitimate nonetheless," said a spokesperson for the police department.

At about 1:53 p.m., school administrators at Gunn High School received a phone call from a male caller who said he was on his way to the school with a bomb. That person identified himself with a name and date of birth that did not appear to correspond to a real person, according to police.

Police worked closely with school administrators and other school district officials to place the campus in a shelter-in-place status while officers conducted their investigation. Out of an abundance of caution, school district officials chose to place Fletcher Middle School at 655 Arastradero Road in a similar status due to its proximity to the high school.

After a review of surveillance camera footage and a search of the campus turned up no evidence of any actual threat, police and school administrators lifted the shelter-in-place at about 3:40 p.m., 10 minutes before the normal end of the school day. School district officials chose to lift the shelter-in-place at Fletcher Middle School earlier in the afternoon at the conclusion of their regular school day.

"There was never any evidence provided of any threat directed at that school," said the police department about the middle school.

Detectives are actively working on this case to identify the callers. It is unknown at this time if the calls were placed by the same person.

"Hoax threats and false reports of emergencies are not only criminal in nature, but they also create a great deal of stress and anxiety for students, parents, school staff, and the community in general," said a spokesperson for the police department. "Anyone found responsible for such hoax calls can face criminal charges, as well as potential civil liability as a cost recovery measure for the law enforcement response."

Detectives are also working to see if this incident may be connected to a similar event reported today at a high school in Orinda, they said.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voicemail to (650) 383-8984.