Chief thinks it might have been 'spoofing.'
As it turns out, a strange call to the Mount Orab Police Department claiming a person had been shot led the Ohio University campus being placed on lockdown. How did it happen? WCPO takes a look.
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File photo of the Ohio University campus. (Mike Waterhouse/WEWS)
CINCINNATI -- There's not a lot of crime in Mount Orab. Normally, it’s a dog running loose or an abandoned car.
All that changed with a mysterious call Tuesday afternoon that shut down the Ohio University campus.
It all began with a phone call answered by Mount Orab employee Vera Benedetti who said she couldn't believe what she was being told. She quickly went to Police Chief Bryan Mount.
"There's a male subject on the phone and he's telling us that he shot his mom," Mount said the longtime water department employee told him.
She answered the non-emergency line because the village of 4,000 people has just six lines, all of which roll over to other lines when one is busy.
"We don't have a lot of crime here for someone to say I just shot my mom. It's not something we see on a day-to-day basis -- at least not here in Brown County in Mount Orab," Mount said.
That's why the chief decided he needed to pick up the phone.
"I answered the phone… (The male caller) said, ‘I shot my Mom. I need help,’ Mount recalled "I sit down here at the desk and start taking notes as I asked him questions: ‘What's your name? What's your Mom's name? How do you spell that?’
"I asked him for his address. He told me 58 E. Green Street in Athens, Ohio."
The chief asked why he was calling Mount Orab.
“I’m calling from my iPod,” Mount said the man told him. (Authorities have since concluded that the call was probably made from a computer, which is virtually untraceable, according to the Columbus Dispatch )
The man said he had the gun in his hand, Mount said. He refused to put down the gun when the chief requested that he do so.
That information was quickly passed on to Athens Police Department, who locked down portions of Ohio University including Gamertsfelter Hall where the shooting was reported to have taken place.
"Avoid the building and evacuate the area," the school posted on Twitter at 3:12 p.m. About an hour later, the university announced a search for evidence expanded to all of East Green.
"I'm left hanging, thinking, 'Is there a dead person? Is there someone shot? Is there someone I need to help?'"
A short time later, university police issued an all-clear, stating no evidence of a shooting was found.
An all clear has been issued for today's East Green incident. No evidence of a shooting was found. See http://t.co/r33GlYwx8f .— Ohio University (@ohiou) July 15, 2014
An all clear has been issued for today's East Green incident. No evidence of a shooting was found. See http://t.co/r33GlYwx8f .
Officials with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement agencies were at the scene to assist with any investigation, but they didn't find a gunman or a victim.
He says he didn’t mean to cause unnecessary trouble, but he felt the need to make sure no one was hurt.
“I was just trying to send someone there to make sure there wasn’t a woman laying there with a bullet hole,” he told the Columbus Dispatch . “I didn’t know the address was a college campus. Not that it would have mattered, though. It still needed to be checked.”
So, who made that call?
Mount said investigators still aren't sure.
He said he is checking local phone records and utility bills, but so far has struggled to find clues in the investigation. The village doesn't record calls and caller ID isn't used.
“We're looking into it. We're not sure if it's a prank call," he said.
The chief says they're also checking to see if it was a case of "spoofing."
"There's actually websites out there that you can go to and assume someone's identity and actually change your voice so that you can make prank phone calls," Mount said.
Police in Mount Orab and Athens said while they aren't going to forget that call any time soon, they're glad it wasn't the real thing.
“We just wanted an address checked, that’s all,” Mount said. "We're glad everyone appears to be safe."