Police: Shooting claim at Berwick Offray 'unfounded'

Last updated: January 16, 2014 - 2:32pm


BERWICK -- A man called 9-1-1 from a stolen phone early Thursday to report that someone was shooting at a Berwick Offray plant, police say. The whole report was fake, but more than two dozen police officers swept through five Berwick Offray buildings in the area over four hours to make sure of that, said Berwick Police Chief Ken Strish. (Listen to two snippets of the call here.)
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Now his officers are focused on finding and prosecuting the man who made the false call, Strish said. He said anyone who recognizes the voice on the call can call the Berwick Police at 570-752-3677 or reach them through county communications at 570-784-6300. It appears the call, from a man who identified himself as "Mike," came from the area of the Offray plant inside the BIDA complex off Third Street. Police discovered a door had been forced open there; inside a portable phone was missing. Strish says it appears the man used it to make the 9-1-1 call. But Offray's phone systems make it difficult to trace the origin of a call, so police descended on all the company's buildings. First, they responded to the administrative offices next to Giant in Briar Creek Borough. After that, police moved on to the company's plant along Susquehanna Avenue, between Mercer and Poplar streets. Finally, they searched the plant in the BIDA complex, where they found the open door. "We searched every nook and cranny, every closet," Strish said. Strish said plants in South Centre and Salem townships were also scoured. Officers prevented first-shift Offray employees from entering the Susquehanna Avenue building until a search was complete.SWATtingStrish says it appears this may be a case of getting police to respond in force to a fake call, a practice known as "SWATting." "Sometimes when we get these calls, someone wants us in one section of town so they can hit another section," he said. So far there's no evidence that happened this time around. And Strish said his officers are dedicated to finding and prosecuting whoever is responsible for this call. "We're hopeful," that someone can be caught, he said. They plan to use all forensic techniques at their disposal to try to identify the voice on tape in the 9-1-1 call, Strish said. Berwick Police were assisted by officers from several agencies including State Police, Bloomsburg, Bloomsburg University, Catawissa, and Hemlock, Scott, and South Centre townships, who responded to the report around 4:45 a.m. Authorities cleared all the buildings by 9 a.m. Check back at www.pressenterpriseonline.com for more information as the story unfolds.

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