PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A threat of violence made in an online video game prompted a modified lockdown at several Pittsburgh-area schools on Monday.
According to a school district statement, Pittsburgh Police received information about a threat against an unnamed school in the Pittsburgh area.
“While no Pittsburgh area school was identified, based on the information received by City Police, we are placing all high schools, 6-12s, middle and K-8 schools as well as early childhood and early head start classrooms or schools sharing a building or campus on a modified lockdown today Monday January 29th as a precautionary measure,” the statement said.
That threat turned out to be a hoax and the suspect has been located in Florida.
According to police, the 21-year-old male suspect made the threats while playing an online video game. During play, he stated he was heavily armed and was going to shoot up a Pittsburgh school.
KDKA spoke with a man who was playing the game with the suspect and recorded the threats.
“He said this was gonna be his last ‘Fortnite’ game and then somebody else in the party asked why, and he said because he was gonna go shoot up a school tomorrow — meaning Monday,” the man said. “He said he was gonna use two AK-47s and a Glock 40.”
Officials interviewed the suspect on Monday, but charges have not been filed.
“We take these matters very seriously and appreciate the cooperation of the media, surrounding schools, and various law enforcement agencies. We are happy to bring this to a peaceful resolution,” says Wendell Hissrich, Director of Public Safety for the City of Pittsburgh.
KDKA’s Lisa Washington reports —
Pittsburgh police received a video link from a local news outlet and contacted local school districts, who in turn notified parents of the threat.
Pittsburgh Police officers were outside Taylor Allderdice High School Monday morning, as students headed to school.
“Anything is possible anywhere, so I’m trying to be a little more relaxed about it,” said Ilana Stotz, who has a child at Taylor Allderdice. “Usually, I just drop her off. This time I drove her into the parking lot area.”
Pittsburgh police increased patrols at local schools.
The Pine Richland School District implemented a soft lockdown and Baldwin-Whitehall School District officials told parents they, too, would be increasing police patrols.
“It was very vague,” Stotz said. “It was about schools in general. I don’t even know if it said Pittsburgh Public Schools, just area public schools.”
As part of the modified lockdown, students remained inside their buildings all day. Only visitors with a prior appointment were allowed inside as well.
“They did take it seriously, and I think it was wise to,” Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said.