BERWICK — Authorities in Columbia County blocked off streets and surrounded a business early Thursday morning. What began as a situation involving a possible shooter was apparently a prank.
It led to a costly emergency response and disrupted the work day for an entire company.
The bill to pay for all of the police fire and other emergency workers from that fake 911 call could cost taxpayers thousands.
Police in Columbia County say the caller threatened to shoot people at a company in Berwick.
Investigators are using forensic technology to try to identify the voice of the person who placed that prank 911.
What’s even more puzzling is that police say the call was made from inside the company.
The work day started nearly two hours late for employees at Berwick Offray, a company that makes ribbons and bows. Many were forced to wait in their cars Thursday morning before going into work.
Nearly two dozen police officers searched the company’s five buildings in and around the Berwick area.
Employees including Mary Bredbenner say none of the plants was operating overnight. Bredbenner says she heard of the 911 call that started it all.
“It just said ‘anyone working for Berwick there could be some trouble for them today.’”
Investigators confirm that 911 call came in around 4:45 a.m. Thursday and was made from a cordless phone by a man inside a Berwick Offray building off Third and Oak Streets. He threatened to shoot and kill employees when they showed up to work.
“What we believe occurred, that someone broke into the complex and used that phone that they had taken and called in this report,” said Berwick Police Chief Ken Strish.
The caller was gone and so was the cordless phone when police arrived. It’s a 911 call that turned out to be a hoax. No shooter was ever found. No one was hurt.
But it did cause a costly emergency response to taxpayers in the thousands after requiring so much police presence, a hefty bill that Berwick’s police chief plans to pass on to the prank caller.
“We’d certainly hold them responsible for the various charges they would be serious charges. And part of those charges would be to pay for restitution for the cost,” said Chief Strish.
Just before 9 a.m. those scenes of employees waiting outside and in parking lots were over. Police called off the whole search letting those folks know it was safe to go back inside and get to work.
Although Berwick Offray did not want to comment on how the prank call affected productivity, news of the whole situation rattled neighbors.
“I took my sisters to school and there were cops going down the road,” said Kiersten Adams.
“It’s sort of a little scary, want to just go and chill at home, don’t want to have to deal with everything going on,” said Dameon Holter
Anyone with information about the hoax is asked to Berwick Police.
Click here to hear the 911 call.