WASHINGTON - D.C. police put out a citywide alert to all of its officers Saturday night after officials feared someone was planning an ambush after receiving calls about shooting attacks in Southeast D.C. However, the calls were determined to be a hoax.
The first of the three calls within a 10-minute span came in just after 8 p.m. Saturday. A man said he and his son had been shot in front of Birney Elementary School on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast D.C. But when police officers arrived, they found nothing.
Four minutes later, a second call came in. This time, the man claimed he and his son had been shot in front of Hendley Elementary School on Chesapeake Street in Southeast. The caller said he was in a black Toyota vehicle, but when police and firefighters arrived in the block – they found nothing again.
Then six minutes after that, the man called again. This time he said he and his son were shot near the Maryland line at Southern Avenue and South Capitol Street in Southeast.
During each call, the man hung up before the call taker could get further information.
D.C. police said they investigated these hoax calls thoroughly.
“It takes a bit of time because you have to do an extensive canvass,” said D.C. Police Commander Vendette Parker. “You are not just looking for the exact location of where the address was called in. The officers actually get out and they look around, so it takes about maybe 30 to 45 minutes to ensure that there was no actual victim. We also do a little more by checking our area hospitals to see if maybe a victim self-reported to a hospital without use of emergency services, so some of it is time consuming. We make sure we do a thorough check."
Police also checked their shot spotters, a computer program that uses microphones set up in many sections of the city, to see if it picked up any sounds of gunfire in the area.
“Not in those cases,” said Parker. “But sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't and we still use an abundance of caution.”
She said all of the calls came from the same phone number, which in the citywide alert was described an emergency use only phone.
Police have been on high alert nationwide since July after five police officers were gunned down in an ambush-style attack in Dallas. Since then, other officers have been shot and wounded or killed in ambush attacks in Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri. A common tactic is to call 911 and then open fire when officers arrive.