Police investigating false officer shooting call

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Police are searching for a suspect who called 911 Friday morning with a false report of an officer being shot.

Metro 911 dispatchers received a call around 11:15 a.m. of a woman claiming a police officer had been shot on Stockton Street in Charleston. The caller then hung up on dispatchers, sending officers scrambling to get to the area of the city’s West Side.

Charleston Police, Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies and West Virginia State Police troopers swarmed the area without finding any shooting suspects or victims, Metro 911 Deputy Director Rick McElhaney said. All available law enforcement units across the county were called to the area, despite suspicions it was a fake report -- because shootings are normally heard by multiple people that all call the authorities.

“You do have to take it all serious,” McElhaney said. “You can have an officer that is in between residence where there is one person witnessing this, or it could be inside of a residence or in the back of a residence, so we definitely do have to take it serious.”

Dispatchers worked to complete a full rollcall of all uniform and undercover law enforcement officers in the county. Once everyone was accounted for, they knew that no officers were actually injured.

McElhaney said they receive around five false calls a month that require a county-wide response, but rarely get false reports that are this serious. Officials speeding to get to a scene puts the officers and public at risk, in addition to pulling resources away from other emergency calls.

Metro 911 is now working with Charleston Police to trace the caller’s phone number. Investigators said no information can be released at this time, and no specific suspects have been identified.

“We look at the history,” McElhaney said. “We see if we have any information that this phone number has called in here before, so we just try to play our part and do everything we can to help them out.”

Charleston Police said the suspect could be charged with falsely reporting an emergency incident.

If you accidently call 911 as a “butt dial” or other mistake, McElhaney said you should call 911 back as soon as possible to tell dispatchers it was a false call. They are very understanding, but if they are unable to get in contact with a false reporter or hang-up caller, law enforcement will be sent to the caller’s location to ensure there is not an emergency situation.

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