TOWN OF BEAVER DAM, Wis. - Following a threat to a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah's Witnesses, Dodge County officials are explaining more about what happened and what they recommend someone does if they hear such threats.
Lt. Brian Loos, from the Dodge County Sheriff's Office, said deputies evacuated the Kingdom Hall in the town of Beaver Dam after two elders reported getting text messages threatening to blow up a meeting at the place of worship Sunday morning.
Loos said after talking to the suspect, authorities determined the threats were not hate crimes motivated by ethnicity or religion. They searched the building and did not find any bombs.
"It was just somebody who was looking to disrupt or cancel the service for that day," Loos said.
Authorities around the nation have investigated threats following mass shootings in other states, including Ohio and Texas.
Loos said history has shown that national incidents around the country can spark other incidents. He said every incident is taken seriously
"I think everybody has their different motivations behind why these things come up. Sometimes it's for attention. Sometimes it's to create some panic, some fear," Loos said.
He recounted a hoax swatting call in 2018 reporting that a man had been shot and there is a hostage situation. The call turned out to be fake. Loos said deputies will investigate every incident they hear about, but fake calls like that can be a waste of law enforcement resources.
So what can citizens do to help law enforcement agencies respond to these incidents? Deputy Josalyn Longley, from the Dane County Sheriff's Office, said it's all about increasing their situational awareness.
"People aren't as aware. They're so buried in their phone or buried in their computer. What are they seeing in their neighborhood? What are they hearing?" Longley said.
Since 2016, she has trained more than 16,000 people in active shooter trainings, which has skills she said people can apply in many types of situations.
"If they're seeing something that appears suspicious or maybe a co-worker or a friend's behavior seems off or suspicious, we want them to report it," she said.
She teaches "run, hide, fight" and "see something, say something" strategies.
Above all, she said people should never feel like they're a "bother" to law enforcement officers.
"They may have that one piece of information that law enforcement needed," Longley explained.
In the Dodge County incident, the suspect was a minor so the Sheriff's Office is not disclosing that person's identity. Loos said the office is referring bomb scare charges to the county where the suspect lives, which is a nearby county in Wisconsin.
"Hopefully we don't see many more of these, but we do investigate them. We do take them seriously even if we believe nobody's in imminent danger," Loos said.
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