December 1, 2022

Savannah high shooter hoax
Parents of Savannah High School students anxiously await student evacuation after a false report of an active shooter. (Jake Shore/The Current) Credit: Jake Shore/The Current

False shooter alerts at Coastal Georgia schools

At least three Coastal Georgia schools were subject to active shooter hoaxes on Wednesday, sending police into high alert and parents into panic. 

Police received similar reports of shootings at Brunswick High School, Camden County High School, and Savannah High School. There were also reported threats at schools in Wayne and Richmond Counties. Local law enforcement searched the schools and found no evidence of any shooters or injuries.

In the late morning, The Current’s reporter Jake Shore went to Savannah High School as the chaos unfolded.

While school officials worked to evacuate students, worried parents circled the school perimeter. They spoke with their children inside the school on speaker phone, anxiously chatted with other family members, and yelled at police blocking them from rushing towards the school. Police calmly directed parents and tried to assuage their concerns, with Assistant Savannah Police Chief Robert Gavin spotted speaking to a group of parents. 

“All we want is our kids!” shouted one Savannah High mother. Students were eventually shepherded over to the basketball gym for parents to sign them out. 

Nimfa, a 16-year-old 10th grader at Savannah High, spoke with The Current after exiting the school with a relative. She said rumors were flying among her classmates as she was locked down in the gym.

“It’s a little bit difficult. (My classmates) heard there were shootings, I heard there were injuries. I wasn’t sure if it was 100% true or not,” she said. 

After deadly mass shootings at a Colorado gay club and a Virginia Walmart in the last two weeks, fears of an active shooter were palpable among parents and students alike.

“We have to be careful,” Nimfa said. “Even though you think nothing is going to happen next, you have to be careful.”

Daniel Defense ad
Example of a Daniel Defense advertisement allegedly appealing to young men. The caption states “Saturdays are for the boys” featuring soldiers armed with rifles. (Screenshot from lawsuit) Credit: Screenshot of lawsuit

2nd lawsuit for Bryan County gun maker

Bryan County-based gunmaker, Daniel Defense, faces its second lawsuit stemming from a mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, school, where a gunman used one of the company’s rifles to kill 19 children and two teachers in May.

Sandra Torres, mother of deceased 10-year-old Eliahna Torres, filed the suit Monday against Daniel Defense alleging the company’s marketing tactics relied on social media, internet meme culture, and collaborations with the Call of Duty video game franchise to appeal to young men like the 18-year-old shooter. The suit alleges the tactics are in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Daniel Defense hasn’t responded to the lawsuit yet. 

The company in Black Creek, once heralded as an economic boon for the county and Coastal Georgia, has been under a harsh spotlight since the shooting. The use of its weapon in Uvalde has spawned a congressional investigation into its profits, at least two federal lawsuits, and a complaint of an illegal campaign contribution. 

Daniel Defense could also face steep losses if a judge is persuaded by Torres’ argument. In February, families of the victims from the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting were successful in securing a $73 million settlement after suing Remington, the maker of the gun used in that shooting, for its marketing tactics.

Jackie Johnson
Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson (screenshot from an archived version of campaign site Credit: Screenshot of campaign website

Indicted DA heads to court

Indicted ex-district attorney Jackie Johnson will have her first court hearing in Brunswick after an unexplained, year-long delay in her criminal case. Specially-appointed Judge John Turner set the arraignment date for December 29th at the Brunswick courthouse.

An arraignment is often the first step for a criminal case to go from accusation to trial, plea, or dismissal. At an arraignment, the criminal charges are read aloud and the defendant will either plead guilty or not guilty. Johnson is expected to plead not guilty. 

A grand jury indicted Johnson in September 2021, accusing her of meddling in the initial investigation of Ahmaud Arbery’s death by telling police not to arrest the men who shot him, Gregory and Travis McMichael. Greg McMichael previously worked for Johnson as an investigator. 

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, said that phones belonging to McMichael and Johnson showed records of 16 calls between them in the weeks after Arbery’s shooting, with one call lasting 21 minutes. 

The hearing on the 29th will also take up motions, including one filed by Johnson’s lawyers to dismiss the charges against her.

In the motion, her attorney called the Johnsons’ criminal accusations “a complete and utter fabrication of reality.” It said she was not involved in decisions on whether or not to arrest the McMichaels and that she is a victim of a politically-motivated “hit-job” by Glynn County Commissioners.

Marijuana plants seized by federal agents as part of a case investigating a transnational criminal organization that smuggled shark fins to Asia and mailed marijuana to Savannah (photo credit: DOJ). Credit: Department of Justice

One last thing: Marijuana and shark fins

A California man pleaded guilty to trafficking dozens of pounds of marijuana into Savannah, part of a “transnational criminal organization” that laundered money and illegally smuggled shark fins to Asia, according to prosecutors.

Ying Le Pang, 49, of San Lorenzo, Calif. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana on Wednesday in Savannah federal court. As part of the group “Wu TCO,” Pang mailed marijuana from California to Savannah and accepted thousands in cash, while the proceeds were hidden as “seafood transactions,” according to his guilty plea and the prosecutor’s indictment.

In addition to distributing marijuana, members of the organization allegedly smuggled shark fins, cruelly harvested from sharks in the ocean, from Mexico, through California and Florida, to export them to Hong Kong, prosecutors said. The shark fins were sold to support the demand in the Asian market for shark fin soup.

Criminal charges for other co-conspirators are still pending.

Mother of 10-year-old Uvalde shooting victim sues school district, police and gun manufacturer

The mother of a victim of the Uvalde mass shooting filed a lawsuit alleging Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense targets young consumers to buy its assault rifles through marketing on social media, video games, and by using internet meme culture.

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Indicted Brunswick DA, Arbery killer allegedly in contact 16 times

Georgia prosecutors reveal new evidence asserting collusion between former DA Jackie Johnson, one of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers and other officials to classify Arbery’s death as a justified killing not a homicide.

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Daniel Defense CEO says gun industry isn’t responsible for mass shootings

Marty Daniel, the CEO of a Georgia gun manufacturer, testified in front of Congress of Wednesday, as part of an ongoing investigation by lawmakers into what is fueling the country’s high rates of gun violence.

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Former Brunswick DA claims vendetta by Glynn County officials in Arbery case

Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers were free for 74 days after his death. The former Brunswick DA accused of delaying their arrests says biased police — not her — are to blame.

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...