Akwesasne casino evacuated after ‘swatting’ incident

Akwesasne Mohawk Casino (Provided photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino was evacuated Thursday evening following a swatting incident that involved a bomb threat and a report of gunfire, according to a press release from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department. The threat was a hoax, and no one was injured.

According to police, the SRMTPD was contacted by the casino at about 6:52 p.m. regarding a bomb threat they received via a telephone call. Shortly thereafter at 6:57 p.m., the SPMTPD received a call about gun shots fired at the casino, the release said.

In addition to the tribal police, the Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department and Akwesasne Mohawk Ambulance responded to the scene and in coordination with casino security, an incident command was setup, police said.

During that time, a full evacuation of the casino, including all patrons and personnel was conducted. The SRMTPD took control of the scene and initiated the process of securing the facility, police said, and the New York State Police was also contacted to have additional resources available on standby.

Following an investigation, the SRMTP Criminal Investigation Division determined that the incident was a “swatting incident,” and that there was no legitimate threat, police said.

Police also determined that all the calls originated outside of the United States.

According to police, the entire casino was searched by members of the SRMTPD, including its K9 unit, and control of the facility was returned to the casino security team.

“Our officers responded to the situation swiftly and kept everyone safe as expected,” SRMTPD Chief Matthew Rourke said in the release. “The national trend of ‘swatting calls’ places significant danger to our community and our officers, we take every precaution when responding to these incidents. I commend our officers for their response and for diligence to keeping everyone safe.

“I would also like to thank the Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department, Akwesasne Mohawk Ambulance, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Emergency Management, and all Akwesasne Mohawk Casino staff for their assistance in this matter,” he added. “We take seriously all calls for service and we will do so until we can verify no threat exists. Our top priority is the safety of the public.”

Swatting, which is the act of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address, has recently been focused on school districts in the region.

A rash of hoax phone calls on the morning of March 30 were made to police departments reporting an active shooter — some reporting that students were shot — at schools across New York, including Franklin Academy in Malone, causing widespread concern and police responses. Police departments throughout the state said there was no actual threat to students in any of the schools, although some were put on lockdown.

On April 4, eight St. Lawrence County schools started their day on a two-hour delay following another round of fake threats, that time from an email.


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