A call threatening gun violence was made Thursday afternoon, Oct. 6, one day after Beaufort High School and other schools across the state received false reports of an active school shooting. Tony Kukulich/The Island News

Phone of former school district student connected to Whale Branch threat


By Tony Kukulich

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) is investigating evidence that a call threatening gun violence at Whale Branch Middle School earlier this month was placed using a phone associated with a former Beaufort County School District student.

A Sheriff’s Office report sheds new light on the incident that took place shortly before dismissal Thursday, Oct. 6. The threat to Whale Branch Middle School came just one day after Beaufort High School and other schools across the state received false reports of an active school shooting.

According to the report, a receptionist at the middle school located in Seabrook received a call at 3:26 p.m. during which the caller said, “I’m going to shoot up the school.”

The caller immediately hung up, and the receptionist contacted the BCSO school resource office by radio and informed him of the threat.

The investigation into the phone number used to make the threat revealed it belonged to an individual with an address in Beaufort. The school district searched its database and determined that the number was associated with a former student at Robert Smalls International Academy. That student is now enrolled in an unspecified school in Georgia.

Investigators further determined that the phone was being used in Georgia.

Names, phone numbers and addresses were redacted from the Sheriff’s Office report. Maj. Angela Viens, BCSO public information officer, declined to provide any further information about the investigation.

After the call, the school was placed on a full lockdown, and the Sheriff’s Office dispatched additional resources to the school. A safety search of all classrooms was conducted, and deputies searched an individual who was reported to have been carrying a knife. No weapon was found on the student or with his belongings. After the building was deemed safe, the lockdown was lifted and students were dismissed without incident.

At Beaufort High the fake report resulted in a massive response of law enforcement from local, county, state and federal agencies. The FBI is taking the lead on the investigation into the false reports made statewide while Gov. Henry McMaster ordered the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to examine how schools and first responders reacted to the threats.

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications.He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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