AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Police say they've responded to multiple "terroristic threats" during the past six months.
The most recent was last Thursday where several calls came in about an active shooter at a local Walmart. APD says 43 officers rushed to the scene but soon found out it was a false report.
“In their head they're thinking this is a situation like what occurred in El Paso and they're trying to get there as fast as they can,” Southwest Patrol Commander Michael Eveleth says.
On September 5, the Austin Police Department received multiple calls that night about what was described to be an active shooter at the Walmart off East Ben White Boulevard.
A source says one caller said two men walked in to the Walmart with assault rifles and black hoodies on. At one point the caller said the gunman was looking at him and the call disconnected. Another caller said someone was shot.
“In your head you're thinking that person may have just been killed and it just adds that much more to the call,” Eveleth sad.
Three minutes later, 43 officers arrived on scene and discovered it was business as usual and there wasn't an active threat.
"Now we're checking all the Walmarts in the city,” Eveleth said.
The callers went to great lengths to make this situation appear real. APD says the call taker says she even heard gunshots in the background on more than one occasion.
“I can only speculate they went out of their way to make this false report and create this background noise,” he said.
Eveleth says in the past six months they've received two terroristic threat calls per month city-wide.
“I haven't noticed that it's been a sharp increase but there's more severity," Eveleth said. "With the mass shootings and the fact that they made this call at a Walmart it heightened our attention.”
Eveleth says most of these calls have been residential, like the one off Doswell Lane, at the end of August.
“Several at the same residence, someone seemed to be targeting that resident," he said. "The one in Southwest Austin was equally disturbing. The caller had stated that he killed his family and was waiting for officers to arrive and that he was armed."
Eveleth says he needs everyone to know how serious this is and how it affects everyone involved.
“Class B misdemeanor, false report," Eveleth said. "But in this case where they caused this large response from the police agency, if you put a substantial part of the public in fear, of serious bodily injury it then becomes a 3rd degree felony and that's punishable to up to 10 years in prison.”
He says Police Chief Brian Manley has even beefed up their peer support network since these calls have been coming in. Eveleth says don't let this deter you from calling if something is seriously happening in your area.