Spartanburg County deputies said they charged a woman after she sent a text message about a shooting at a local college as an April Fools' joke.
Lt. Tony Ivey with the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office said they received a call from the woman's daughter after receiving a text message Tuesday morning about a possible shooting at Virginia College.
According to Ivey, the message said the woman was hiding in a bathroom and heard gunshots.
He said the daughter called 911 and deputies swarmed the college. Sheriff Chuck Wright said he was prepared to find a serious situation as he was headed to the scene.
"I'm thinking Columbine High School, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech," he said.
But as deputies responded, the daughter called back after getting another message from her mom, who said it was an April Fools' joke, according to Ivey.
Ivey said 54-year-old Angela Timmons of Spartanburg was detained and an investigation revealed she sent the text message.
Timmons apologized to her daughter, the college where she works and to the judge after she was released from jail Tuesday night. Timmons said she and her daughters always prank each other on April Fools, but she chose the wrong prank this year.
"Obviously, this was a terrible misunderstanding. I obviously chose a bad prank that my daughters and I always do," Timmons said. "On April Fools' each year we try to out prank each other and I obviously chose, thinking now with recent events, a bad one. I certainly wouldn't have, obviously I love my job, if I thought police would come out and use their time or my daughter certainly wouldn't have called."
Wright said he was thankful it was a joke but was very disappointed at the woman's bad choice. He said no one would think it was a funny joke.
"Text someone and tell them their tire's flat, that's funny," Wright said. "We're talking about death. It's real. The people of Sandy Hook, when they see this online, they're not going to think it's very funny. I don't think it's very funny."
Wright said his deputies responded to the scene very fast, prepared for anything, prepared to give their lives for someone else only to learn it was a joke.
He also said the joke was not fair to the college, saying the employee made a bad choice that does not reflect the institution.
Timmons was charged with one count of disturbing schools, one count of aggravated in nature breach of peace and two counts of unlawful use of a telephone, according to warrants. Her bond was set at $18,000 on Tuesday night.
FOX Carolina reached out to Timmons' daughter, who said she had no comment and the incident was being misconstrued by local media outlets.
Virginia College Spartanburg campus president Dr. Debi O'Dea issued the following statement in regard to the incident, "We understand that many indulge in practical jokes on April 1, but we are very disappointed in the poor judgment demonstrated in this instance.
"We take our students' safety very seriously and are cooperating with Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office, as this incident is now a local law enforcement matter. While we cannot discuss human resource issues, I personally want to thank the responders for their immediate and professional response to an unfortunate and disappointing incident. We apologize to the first responders, our faculty, students and staff, and other community members impacted by this unfortunate situation."
Deputies release 911 call made by Timmons' daughter
Timmons texted her daughter in Tampa about a shooter. And concerned for her mother's safety, Timmons' daughter called 911. Deputies released the audio from the call Tuesday.
Caller: "My mother works at Virginia College, and she just called me saying that they're hiding in a file cabinet - a file office because there are gunshots on campus."
Caller: "She's saying she's still hearing gunfire and they're hiding."
Dispatcher: "Where is she actually hiding at right now?"
Caller: "I'm going to ask her. She says they are hiding in SF file room. ... I don't know what that means."
Caller: "She hasn't responded to me since 10:15 so I don't know what's going on."
Caller: "Oh my goodness..."
Dispatcher: "What's she saying."
Caller: "She's saying she's playing an April Fools' joke. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, sir."
Caller: "I don't think she really thought I would call 911."
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