Manitoba RCMP contact international police over Steinbach, Kleefeld school threats from U.S. number

Manitoba RCMP contact international police over Steinbach, Kleefeld school threats from U.S. number

Mounties in Manitoba say they are in touch with police across the US and an international police organization after multiple threatening calls from a US number to schools in Steinbach and Kleefeld this month.

RCMP spokesman Paul Manaigre said the final threat was made against Clearspring Middle School in Steinbach and Steinbach Regional Secondary School around 3:25 p.m. Thursday.

A voice message left by an unknown caller in Clearspring on Wednesday also threatened the Kleefeld School, an 8th grade kindergarten in the township of Kleefeld, about 20 kilometers west of Steinbach.

Those threats prompted all schools in Steinbach, about 50 kilometers southeast of Winnipeg, and the Kleefeld School to close to students and staff on Friday, Superintendent Shelley Amos said in a statement posted on the Hanover Schools Department’s website on Thursday.

The school department announced that 4,700 students at seven schools were affected.

The Steinbach district high school was threatened on Thursday, the police said. Clearspring Middle School, also in Steinbach, Man., was also mentioned in Thursday’s threat, and in one made the previous day. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Last Friday, the Clearspring school was shut down after receiving its second gun threat in as many days – both in connection with a south-of-the-border number.

All of the threats were very similar, Manaigre said.

“Same thing: Towards the end of the school day, they left a note saying there was going to be a bomb or someone was coming to school with a gun… We’re dealing with our US partners. We’ve been in contact with US Homeland Security as well as Interpol now,” he said in an interview on Friday.

“People are afraid that something could happen. We see these things in the news all the time, and it’s a parent’s worst nightmare that you could see something like this closer to home. So I can understand that it’s difficult for families and students, staff.”

Lara Wieler (right) is sitting on the couch with her three children. The two eldest are studying at home on Friday because their schools were closed as a precaution after threats against neighboring schools. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Lara Wieler has two children under the age of 10 affected by the closures on Friday.

She’s grateful they’re studying at home, in case the threats make any sense.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather have my kids safe at home,” she told CBC. “Yes, that’s a high percentage [chance] that it’s a hoax, it’s not real, but if it’s real or there’s something to it, at least keep safety in mind and try to forestall it.”

Co-parent Chris Goertzen explained what is happening to his children who have been impacted by the closures.

“My kids understand the difference between an immediate threat and a potential threat, and that’s why we’re having these discussions,” he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

“Other students probably don’t feel the same way, and I’ve certainly heard from other parents that their children are concerned. And that’s why we have to solve this.”

Steinbach’s Chris Goertzen has children affected by Friday’s school closures. He says he spoke to his children about the difference between potential threats and imminent threats. (Trevor Lyons/Radio Canada)

Although they determined the calls came from a US number, investigators have not yet been able to find the location of the person making the calls because the number is automatically generated on the internet, he said.

RCMP investigated last week’s threats and found them to be unreliable. Mounties and the US Department of Homeland Security traced the affected number to a property in Menasha, Wisconsin, but local police don’t believe the homeowners at that location were actually involved.

The caller used an internet call service to hide his location, but investigators still believe the call came from the United States

Manaigre said RCMP is in contact with the Hanover Schools Department to ensure leadership is making informed decisions in the face of recent threats.

Investigators will work over the weekend to determine the credibility of the threat while the school department works to determine if the school will be back in person Monday, he said.

CBC News has requested more information from the US Department of Homeland Security and Interpol, but has not received an immediate response.

A person who makes threatening calls could be charged with making threats, mischief and public mischief if false threats lead to a police investigation, Manaigre said.

Police in the US could also press charges if they found the caller was a resident.

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