Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Holly Shelter preteen arrested for felony shooting hoax, 911 transcripts released

Holly Shelter Middle School went on lockdown last week due to a preteen making a prank call in regard to an active shooter. (Courtesy photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The 12-year-old boy charged with phoning in a fake school shooter threat at Holly Shelter Middle School last week was arrested. 

New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jerry Brewer told Port City Daily Wednesday the office arrested the adolescent after obtaining a petition order to do so. Law enforcement booked the pre-teen into the New Hanover Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

READ MORE: Active shooter hoax locks down Holly Shelter for hour, dismissal now underway

The boy called 911 on Dec. 6 at 3:53 p.m. to report an active shooter from the middle school campus, where he is a student. It triggered a lockdown and law enforcement response to clear the school of any threat. 

The Holly Shelter call was made less than a week after New Hanover High School was locked down due to a East Coast-wide chain of hoax “swatting” calls. 

READ MORE: 911: Shooting hoax caller claimed to be NHHS teacher, sheriff’s office turns over case to FBI

On Dec. 7, NHCSO announced the boy was charged with false report concerning mass violence on education property, a Class H felony. 

Juveniles are sentenced based on the severity of their crimes — violent, serious or minor — and criminal history. In this case, the crime would be considered serious, and if the minor has no prior convictions, he could be sentenced to a Level 1 or 2 (out of 3) punishment. 

According to state law, options for the Holly Shelter caller could include a $500 fine, probation, enrollment in a community program or service or place the minor in custody of a parent, relative or social services, or other suitable person at the Level 1 level. 

At Level 2, he could face a fine higher than $500, house arrest, submittal to a residential treatment facility or group home, participation in a regimented training program, among other options. 

New Hanover County Schools could not confirm if the boy was expelled from Holly Shelter Middle School, citing privacy regulations. 

On the 911 call obtained by PCD, the boy tells the emergency services operator there is a shooter at Holly Shelter (his voice is distorted to protect the minor’s identity). The operator asked him to provide his name and phone number, but the boy’s words were unintelligible. The 911 report notes the boy sounded “out of breath.”

Within minutes, emergency personnel traced the phone number to the child’s location at Holly Shelter and surmised the call was a prank, but officers continued to clear the school for another hour and 20 minutes. 

The report also details the effort to move the students from their dismissal areas to the gym.

Emergency transcripts show officers determined at 3:57 p.m.: “As far as we can tell, there is nothing here.”

However, they were dispatched at 4:05 p.m. to search Castle Hayne Elementary School, which shares property with Holly Shelter. According to the report, “children [were] on playground” at the elementary school only five minutes before.

At 4:14 p.m, law enforcement led a “large group” of evacuated children from the gym to the ballfield. Officers completed the primary and secondary searches of Holly Shelter two minutes later and found no gunman. 

By 4:23 p.m. a student’s mother informed emergency services that a sixth grader brought a gun to school that day and was showing it off to other students in band class. The report indicates she “was unsure if the gun was real or fake.”

Documents also specify at 5:06 p.m., school administration was concerned no notification had been sent out about lifting the lockdown. 

The school was cleared to dismiss students at 5:19 p.m, although other notes in the report show personnel instructing not to release students yet and to “stop moving kids.”

By 5:25 p.m., parents were notified for pickup.


Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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