January 24, 2013

Threat ‘hoax’ locks down Moody

Reports of a gunman are a false alarm

January 24, 2013 Quinten Plummer The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Special Weapons and Tactics units and other specialized divisions of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office rushed manpower and fire power Wednesday afternoon to Moody Air Force Base in response to a reported threat, but were called back after clearing several buildings and ruling the report false, according to base officials. The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office termed the incident “a hoax.”

The report of an active shooter on the base originated from an automated voice message that was received by several airmen on Moody, according to a Wednesday evening releasefrom the base. The airmen reported the phone calls to base emergency officials and lock-down procedures were implemented at approximately 1:25 p.m. Emergency personnel responded to the situation immediately and determined a threat did not exist.

Cars spilled out onto Bemiss Road during the lock-down, trapping drivers in the stagnant lines outside of the clotted North and South gates until the “all clear” was given at approximately 2:55 p.m.  

Georgia State Patrol troopers kept watch at the swelling intersections outside of the base’s gate. Meanwhile, Lowndes County Sheriff’s deputies set up teams both in and outside of the sealed base before ruling the report false, said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine.

“We were dispatched to Moody Air Force Base because we received a report of an active shooter on base,” said Prine. “We had teams inside of the base that swept several hangars and other buildings, but we didn’t find a shooter.”

Kevlar-clad SWAT members gathered in the Family Pizza parking lot across from base, prepping assault rifles and testing their communications and optical gadgets as civilians and locked-out military personnel snapped cell-phone pictures. But the group was never given the order to proceed onto the base, the sheriff said.

“I called in the Lowndes County SWAT team and had them stage near the base in case they were needed,” said Prine, who was with teams on the base.

“Moody Air Force Base’s request for assistance was later canceled, so all of our units packed up and moved out.”

Security Forces and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Moody are investigating the source of the phone calls, said 23rd Wing Commander Colonel Billy Thompson.

“We take all active shooter reports seriously and I’m proud of the way our airmen and everyone on base responded,” said Thompson. “We also appreciate the partnership and support we received from the Lowndes County and Valdosta first-responders as the situation developed.”

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